Seriously? Knack 2? How are you a thing?
When Sony announced the game towards the end of 2016 the internet and its dog was a little confused to say the least. The original game was the whipping boy of the PS4’s launch lineup with repetitive, overly tough gameplay and lengthy checkpoints whetting the knives of critics and players alike.
But had we missed something? Perhaps secret gatherings of forumites had been diligently spreading the word that the original was an unappreciated masterpiece, with a second coming bound to make believers of us all? Was Knack big in Japan? Was Knack in a Justin Bieber video and now a tween crush? Or maybe alcohol and a bet were involved? Surely not science, research or past sales figures?
When you think about the huge waits gamers have endured, begging for sequels/remakes, it’s amazing that Knack 2 was greenlit. And yet, in this strange new world, we’re more likely to see Knack 3 than Half-Life 3, TimeSplitters 4, or new Mass Effect, Jak & Daxter and Burnout games anytime soon.
Knack 2 is also alive and well on shop shelves while Scalebound, Prey 2 (before the very different 2017 reboot) and Silent Hills were cancelled during development. Just opening some painful memories for you -it’s a hilariously and maniacally cruel world out there.
The most desire I’d seen for any form of Knack -outside of passive aggressive gift giving- since the original’s launch was in the comment sections of sites posting about the latest PlayStation Plus games. It became a running joke as gamers clamoured for the much-derided platformer as one of the ‘free’ monthly titles in the Instant Game Collection.
It was an odd mix of players just wanting a free platformer (3D platformers are even rarer on PS4 than they were last gen, and that’s saying something) and people just wanting judge the game themselves without spending any money on it. Every month, for years, someone would claim to have heard a leak that Knack would be coming to PS Plus next month.
But it never came. I’ve had the game in my basket for around £5 a few times over the years, only to bail at the last minute; knowing DualShock 4 deals aren’t as cheap as I’d need them to be to test my patience that much. Both occasions were for digital versions too, and deleting something from your hard-drive just isn’t as satisfying as winging a disc into a wood chipper. And yet, I paid £5.05 for a warm bottle of beer in a club last week.
“Knack 2 announced”
And then there it was. Knack 2 was being announced on-stage. Presumably not with Sony’s Marc Cerny hurling unsold discs of the original at a cowering and bewildered crowd whilst laughing like a maniac who’s just found the big red button. Although, I never heard that wasn’t what happened. All I can remember is everything went blurry after reading “Knack 2” in the headlines. Hopefully, that was just shock, rather than a Manchurian agent-style activation blackout on reading a trigger phrase.
Anyway, while I was confusedly picking Russian rubles out of my laundry basket days later, patient PlayStation Plus vultures finally began to accept Sony would never give away the original Knack. And why would they if the game was so bad? You can’t sell a sequel by showing millions of subscribers how bad the original was.
But, despite not having had the chance to play Knack 2 yet, I can’t help but root for the plucky comeback kid nobody really asked for. Let’s not forget after all, how poor the first Assassin’s Creed was before the second game turned Ubisoft’s sneak em’ up into one of gaming’s biggest names. Naturally, I’m not saying Knack 2 is set to do the same, but it’s great to see Sony give the series another shot, whether anyone wanted it or not.
The timing is questionable though. We’ve come to expect a summer drought of games as publishers gamble on the Christmas shopping season year after year. But Knack 2 would have been an ideal candidate for release during the lengthy school holidays beforehand and the £25 launch price-tag is a solid move too. But no, the game launches just as school/colleges/universities yank gamers back to reality again, missing its ideal window entirely. Na, Sony, just release it the same week as Destiny 2.
Despite this utter omnishambles of scheduling, the signs are looking quite good for Knack 2. If you want to use Metacritic as a measuring stick, the original scored a 55, whereas Knack 2 is rocking a very reasonable 70 score. Frequent quips of ‘better than the first game’ have a bit of a back-handed compliment vibe around them for sure, but overall, people seem to be pleasantly surprised. It’s no Ratchet & Clank, but the fact that Sony is throwing money and support into an almost dead genre, not to mention giving younger gamers something a bit less violent than a new Call of Duty to play should be applauded. The Knack series might not be the game to set the action platformer genre alight once again, but if Sony throws some advertising weight behind it around the Christmas sales, it might just be the spark we’ve been looking for for brighter things.
In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for the first Knack on PlayStation Plus, like a tool.