I’m almost done playing with Knack 2, the new PlayStation 4 platformer game built around the character who can morph himself from a tiny creature to a behemoth in a second. My colleague Anthony John Agnello reviewed the game and concluded that it works. The game launched this week, and it’s a big improvement over the original title.
When Knack debuted for the launch of the PS4 in 2013, I was looking forward to it. But the game scored a weak 54 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic, with reviewers citing a convoluted story, uninspired level design, repetitive gameplay, and too little platforming. It was the “black sheep of the launch line-up,” according to Sony’s own PlayStation magazine.
Yet Sony soldiered on. Mark Cerny, the mastermind behind the design of the PlayStation 4, went back to work. He helped create a console that sold more than 60 million units and vaulted Sony from No. 3 to No. 1 in the game console business. If anybody could learn how to show off the console, you have to figure it was someone like Cerny, who has been designing games for decades. So Sony gave him and Sony Japan Studio another chance and greenlit a sequel.
“There was a desire for more variety and platforming,” he said in our earlier interview. “I hadn’t appreciated how much desire there was for that.”
Back in May, Cerny said in an interview with GamesBeat that he learned from the fan feedback. The work started in 2014. The game developers learned how to optimize software for the hardware, and they made much better-looking graphics and physics simulations.
The cinematics are also well done, and they add to the beauty of the game. Sony stepped up the story, as Knack 2 was written by Marianne Krawczyk, who wrote the story for the God of War games and won a BAFTA game award for best story and character for God of War II. The gameplay had more variety, and it includes co-op play that can be a lot more fun as you smash robots with two big Knack characters.
The character Knack consists of many Lego-like parts, and they fit together or pull apart fluidly as Knack transforms himself from big to small and back to big. I enjoyed the parts of the game where you could instantly change from a tiny Knack to a giant 32-feet-tall Knack to overwhelm surprised enemies. Cerny considers the game to be more gameplay-driven than story-driven.