September 11, 2017

Knack 2 - Review

Launch games on any platform are always held to a much higher standard and while Knack was by no means a good game, it was still great for kids, however a sequel was never expected. How wrong we were, as not only was one announced last year, it’s out now, but does it fix the issues experienced in the original.

Knack and Lucas are watching over Newhaven as robots of varying sizes are attempting to destroy everything in sight and after taking down the biggest one around, Knack is seemingly crushed, while Lucas states that it is all his fault. We are then taken back in time, to a period before, whatever was happening, happened and now Lucas, Knack and Ryder are set to explore a jungle, so Lucas can show Ryder something, he things is impressive. What starts out as a simple come see what I found, ends up having the heroes running for their lives, as they discover those same robots from earlier, but smashed and rusted, are coming back to life. Seeking help from the Doctor and Xander, who leads an order of Monks, they set out to discover where the robots are coming from and who might be controlling them.

The story keeps a standard pace from that point on, at least for the next 4 or so chapters, then almost out of nowhere, as its building to what feels like an end, it does a 180, chooses a new villain and basically starts over again. The issue I had with this, is that it did it two more times, before finally ending, it would move towards progress, only for it to change its mind, modify a character and then have the story push on again. This would not be an issue if the changes were exciting, but they are not, the big bad villain, who I wont name here, was someone I picked out early, there was no reason for them to change the way they had, nothing indicated a swap and what is worse, is that at the end, that same character, which showed no signs of evil, was doing evil and maniacal laughs and when someone points out they are crazy, they agree.

While the story is less than perfect, the gameplay is improved over the original game, though that level of improvement is hampered by a seriously stupid levelling system. Combat is more like God of War than anything else and it gets that feeling thanks to a static camera system and multiple attack buttons and while it is inspired by that series, it does not reach anywhere close to the heights that it pulls from. Combat consists of two types of attacks, heavy and light, with the occasional grab thrown in, over the course of the 12 hour story, Knack unlocks variants on those attacks, allowing for more damage, the enemies are powered up as well, which means that you are usually a step behind, requiring your fights to be played out smarter, rushing towards an enemy, especially one that has a ranged attack, will frequently result if you taking an insane number of hits.

As you defeat the enemies, you will earn relic energy, which you can use to choose new options for Knack, however there is a restriction here, the game only opens up each section of skills, as you purchase all of the standard ones from the group prior. Now that might not sound like to big of an issue, earning the skill point to purchase the early skills takes some time, because as the circle fills up, as you collect the relic energy, it then marks off a quadrant on the diamond inside it, fill up all four and you get a point. This means that it takes 4 complete fills of the collection circle, before you earn a point and when you start needing 2 or 4 points per skill it takes far to long to level up. Given that the game offers new game+ once you finish it, they clearly expect you to go back and play again, to unlock every skill. Playing through again though, may help you collect more hidden items, which in turn will let you discover items which will help you in battle. The issue with most of the hidden items, stems from the fact that platforming your way to them is more of a frustration than it should be and towards the end I gave up collecting them completely.

Platforming makes up half of the gameplay and sadly it does not deliver at all, while the combat is decent, though repetitive, the platforming is a mess. With the games static camera, keeping it fixed from a given point, it constantly finds itself in bizarre locations, which makes some jumps quite annoying and lead to many deaths, far more than I had in combat. The worse times however come from when the camera locks itself to a 2d view, usually when Knack becomes smaller and has to explore interiors. The issue is Knack is still on a 3d plain, but the camera is locked to 2d, which means that Knack still moves as if he was in an open space, so pushing forward, might have Knack walk off the edge. The same movement issues occur though, when you are moving in one direction and the camera changes viewpoints, causing your movement to push on forward, regardless of which way is north. Combine that with a strange double jump mechanic, where a single jump is not enough most of the time and the double jump is just too much, platforming is a mess.

One space that the game delivers, is the performance, playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro gives some nice visuals, the game never achieves Uncharted visuals, but the look is consistently maintained throughout the game. The human characters, well honestly, they do look weird on their own, but when you compare them to the Goblins and robots, they do look in line with the rest of the design. Speaking of design, that is one area I can’t fault the game on, each of the locations you explore, while garden variety, are worthy of your time, simply because they are wonderfully detailed and full of life. The enemies seem basic to begin with, when you are dealing with the jungle Goblins, but once you start to deal with the robots, you will see some pretty wicked designs.

Sound wise, the impressive performance of the actors behind the characters is welcome, though a few characters seem to be there, just because, Knack is odd, because when small, he does not speak, but once he hits 4 feet tall, he has a massively deep voice; that voice matches when he gets up to 20 feet, but at 4, it’s just a little strange. The enemies and locations are basic sounding, again nothing to new there, but I should give a thumb up to the score, as there are times when it simply fades into the background, resulting in a barely their track, but when the game delivers the quick time events, the score is very epic, something befitting a more modern action movie.

Knack 2 is a sequel that improves on the original, but it has taken a minor step forward, rather than the massive lead it should have. With a crazy camera and restrictive character progression, it holds things back far more than is needed and when you combine that with lacklustre platforming and bland combat, it still has a way to go, before the game becomes worthy of tier 1 recognition.

Thanks to Sony Interactive Entertainment for providing the game for review

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