Knack II Review
The High Goblins’ ancient machines from the Crystal Wars are back and on a rampage! It’s up to Knack and the Monks from the Monastery to find out where the robots are being controlled from, and once again, save the world!
Knack™ II is SIE Japan Studio’s sequel to the not-so-popular Knack™, released as of September 2017. Knack II was announced on the 3rd of December 2016 at the PlayStation Experience event. Writers from the God of War series, namely Marianne Krawczyk, joined the development team in order to write the script for Knack II. After the generally bad reception of the first game, the development team sought to improve on what was lacking, and it’s safe to say that they have, with a lot more variety, turning Knack into the solid action-platformer it was obviously originally meant to be.
Digging Up Relics
The game starts off with Newhaven under attack by advanced robots that later get revealed as the same robots who were present during the Crystal Wars between the humans and goblins. We get a narrative by Lucas, expressing guilt over some action he wishes he could go back to fix, alluding to the possibility that he may have accidentally triggered the invasion. After being given the tutorial on the controls and multiple fights against massive robots, as well as a Quick-time event, we find ourselves 6 months in the past, where Lucas and Ryder have flown to The Highlands, where Lucas wanted to show Ryder a discovery he had made. After making your way through the little town, taking care of the odd goblin, and making it through some old goblin ruins, you find a battlefield littered with rusted robots from the Crystal Wars. Ryder felt wary of this scene, to which Lucas and Knack respond by saying they’ve been laying there for years with no sign of ever moving. Boy, were they wrong. Not long after Lucas approaches one of the robots, do they start reactivating, one by one, prompting another battle for Knack. You barely escape and go back to Doctor Vargas, and seek help from the Monks up in the Monastery. Knack receives some training and then heads out with Ava, the head Monk’s daughter, and Lucas to check up on some of the old mines. From here on, the story takes further flight, with more being revealed about the goblins and their involvement with the ancient robots and their plans with them for the destruction of humanity.
The story itself is relatively intriguing. When terminology like “The Crystal Wars” gets used, it almost gives you a sense of awe at some kind of greater mystery behind the lore of Knack. So now the game focuses more on the goblins and their history, and it’s a pretty interesting one at that, although I find fault in the characters of the story. Some of the goblins seem more interesting than the protagonists. Lucas’s purpose in a good portion of the game is a mystery to me. He seems useless most of the time, which is a big change from his role in the previous game. Not only that, but his character model has been changed drastically, and it’s annoys me. The only purpose he seemed to serve was to very childishly add commentary on Knack’s ability to open doors, or exasperatedly chant “Finally!” whenever Knack solves a puzzle to bring down a bridge or the like. I’d like to see if he could solve any of the puzzles faster than Knack (of which most required incredible feats of strength). Ryder’s archaeological knowledge was key to many discoveries, and Ava was good moral support, if anything else. Doctor Vargas as was arrogant as usual, causing an event to transpire that provoked an ill-advised decision on Lucas’s part. I honestly think that if Lucas and Vargas took a vacation, the world would be in a better place in this installment. There have been major graphical improvements on the characters, texture-wise, and the environments feel more varied and fun to explore, but more on this later.
Treasures and Ruins
Knack II is, for all intents and purposes, a kids’ game. The dialogue is childish, although many times some of the characters use quite a mature vocabulary, making me wonder if the script writers took this into account. Aside from this, the mechanics are quite sturdy and fun. The combat controls are varied enough to keep the fights interesting, combining punches and kicks and then heavy attacks makes for seamless combos, and is so satisfying to successfully execute. Knack’s natural abilities are the same as always, gathering more relics to grow into a more deadly Golem, gaining strength, and health, and resilience the more you gather. It’s a lot of fun and keeps your eyes peeled for the random boxes strewn about that will contain these parts. What can be quite disappointing though is the fact that you lose your parts in each chapter, starting off with a standard 4-foot-10 Knack, which is quite underwhelming when you were 30 feet tall in the previous chapter, dealing with a rather fun boss fight. This led to a little bit of demotivation, especially when I was able to deal with previously difficult enemies as though I was swotting mosquitoes, and now have to deal with them with the same level of frustration as before. If I felt this way, I can only imagine how it would feel for children of younger ages who live by the “bigger is better” motto.
Along the way, in every chapter, and it’s sub-chapters, you’ll find hidden treasure chests that contain either Relic Energy, or Gadget pieces. The Relic Energy gives you points to spend on upgrading Knack and his abilities, or to unlock a new ability that Knack will be able to use along the way. The way this gets done is through a circular Skill Tree of sorts, which has been divided into 4 equal segments. Only 1 segment is available for upgrading, and the only way to unlock the others is by filling out every node with Relic Energy. Once you have filled out all of the nodes in the first segment, except for a special node at the very end that requires 4 points to unlock, the next segment will gain a little more colour, showing it is now available for point input. The gadget pieces you get from the chests form together to create Gadgets that give you additional in-game advantages, such as being teleported back to the ledge you fell off of, or Sunstone Energy being converted into Relic Energy when your Sunstone guage is already full, etc. These buffs are quite useful in any situation, so be sure to keep your eye open for the hidden areas with the Treasure chests.
Crystals and Co-op
Along with the gadget parts, you have a chance to find Rare Crystals, namely Aqua, Ruby, Topaz and Emerald. When you get all of the one type, you unlock the ability for Knack to use these crystals in-game and battle using them. It takes quite a while to find them all, though it’s rewarding when you do. In the mean time, we see the return of the armour-like shell made up of other materials, like ice, clear crystal, or metal. Metal Knack, for example, is very durable, and has stauncher attacks. He’s also able to use a whip made from metal, slicing and dicing his enemies in a wide field in front of him. When you shift into small Knack from any of these forms (except Stealth Knack), you’ll leave behind a statue that takes on the general shape of Knack, and can be used to weigh down switch platforms. The puzzles in the game is rudimentary stuff, and after a few Chapters can feel a bit repetitive. You get the classic pressure-sensitive switches (like I mentioned before), moving around boxes and pillars, bouncing lasers off glass mirrors, etc. It wasn’t enough to make me want to abandon the game though, fortunately. The puzzles are well-paced, which still gives you the sense of progress being made.
One of the other really fun features is co-op. You can play the entire game with a friend, or sibling, (or whichever family member) which makes puzzle solving and combat that much funner! The chaos of combat gets scaled accordingly, with just enough enemies for both Knacks to manage. Some gameplay mechanics are only available in co-op combat as well, like being able to punch relic pieces off of your partner like a machine gun, or kicking them into enemies. Naturally, this can provide some laughs. If one partner needs to take a quick bathroom break after combat, not to worry, because your partner will simply warp to your location whenever you solve puzzles and advance to a new area. The biggest flaw I find in the game, is that the main protagonist doesn’t have depth to his character. We can in no way relate to him, or whatever inner struggles or joys he might have. His lines feel generic, which is a pity, because not only is his voice quite unique, but the fact that we’re controlling a sentient Golem has to be an intriguing idea for a good character. Apparently Knack and Lucas are “best friends”, but their interaction in Knack II is more along the lines of “tag along buddies”. There was a missed opportunity here, I think.
I enjoyed Knack II, and from what I can see, it’s definitely an improvement on the first game, but it still doesn’t keep my attention for long spans of time. The puzzles are made up of the rudimentary stuff, but still keeps the game going at a generally good pace. The story unfolds as you go, which adds to the sense of progress being made, and at least the story has some intrigue to it. The graphics have been improved upon, although I think they messed up Lucas’s character model, badly. As far as a kids game goes, it’s not bad, and has a lot to offer despite the generic puzzles and lack of personality in the characters. Knack II can be purchased, at the time of this review, at BT Games for R565.00, which considering all the other PS4 games out there, isn’t too bad, and definitely a lot more worth it than the first Knack. There is quite a bit of replayability value in it, since you’re given challenges to complete additional missions during each Chapter, such as achieving a certain score or punching a golden beetle, and let’s not forget the collection of all the Gadgets and Crystals.