I finally played the original Knack, and it wasn't good
Last month at E3, I played Knack 2 and didn't exactly speak highly of it in my preview. I shared my coverage on N4G, and the comments section was filled with angry Knack fans protesting against my negative thoughts on the game. It was an understandable reaction, I suppose. The problem I had, however, was with the people who said that my opinions on the game were invalid because I'd only played the sequel. The thing is, my experience with Knack 2 was a bad one, and whether or not I played the original really wouldn't have changed that.
That said, I figured that I owed it to Knack and its legions of loyal followers to back up my statements and address the big complaint surrounding my Knack 2 preview. So I did the right thing–I played Knack. Thanks to Sony's Mid-Year Sale, I was able to purchase the game for $3 on the PlayStation Network. After having finally gotten through the PlayStation 4 launch title, I can say that I'm really glad I didn't pay more than $3 for it, because, well, Knack is kind of awful.
Fundamental problems with Knack
Knack is not a good game. The whole thing is plagued with outright bad design in practically everything that it does. Even the few bits that are actually promising end up failing to deliver on their potential.
One of the biggest problems the game suffers from is its bad writing. The entire game is one cheesy cliché. A scientist, a buff dude, a kid, and the titular Knack are out to fight a war between humans and goblins — a war that's never really given any backstory. Those same characters are also trying to stop a generic madman from taking over the world.
Both the characters and the plot are incredibly boring, but the fact that a cutscene plays every few minutes makes it even more of a bore. You're constantly moving from one area to the next, but story sequences break the already bland action far too often. I never really cared for the protagonists' plight, but it almost felt like I was being forced to care.
Outside of the lame plot, the actual gameplay of Knack is no better. It's actually quite fitting that a game with such a lackluster storyline also has tedious mechanics. From beginning to end, the bulk of what you do in Knack is enter an area — usually a small clearing of sorts — and then take down two to five bad guys, which opens up a door to the next area where, that's right, you'll fight two to five bad guys so that you can open up a door and – well, you get the idea. It's painfully repetitive.
When I previewed Knack 2 at E3, one of my biggest gripes was its progression loop, which was built around the whole fight/open door/fight/open door design that I would come to greatly dislike in the original. At least Knack 2 promises to feature more platforming than the original, which will hopefully help to break up the rather monotonous combat. But if that's the case, I really hope the platforming is actually fun, because the few platforming parts in the first Knack are pretty terrible.
The reason the platforming in Knack is so awful is because the controls are bad. Knack doesn't handle especially well, and even some of the smaller platforms require you to perform a double jump. It's obnoxious and dull in a way that I haven't experienced in this type of third-person action game in quite a long time.
I Don't Think Knack 2 Will Be Good
As strange as this may sound to anyone who thought Knack was bad, I'm really glad I finally played it. I can now say without a doubt that Knack 2 does not feel like the improvement it should be. Based on what I played of the sequel, it definitely seems like more of the same and, in this case, that's in no way a good thing.
And for anyone arguing that the Knack series is for kids, that presents a bigger problem, because I'm pretty sure the fans upset over my preview of Knack 2 are grown-ass adults. If you're part of that demographic, you should probably just be playing God of War instead, as Knack seems like a majorly dumbed-down version of that series with a colorful coat of paint slapped on it just for the sake of having a family-friendly action game on the PlayStation 4.
Based on my recent experiences with both Knack and Knack 2, I highly doubt the sequel will be much better than the original. It'll make the series' fans happy, and some children who've never played vastly superior franchises like Ratchet &Clank and Mario will probably like it (those poor kids), but it won't actually be a good game.