You never know what to expect when you boot up a game like Klaus. It could just be your average 2D platformer filled with boring puzzles, but one thing's for sure; you won't expect it to be the addictively mind-blowing thrill-ride that it is.
Klaus begins with the protagonist waking up in a basement not knowing who or where he is. Sure, it sounds generic but as the plot unfolds, you'll be impressed by how engaging and unapologetic it is. Without giving anything away, at times the story can be humorous or serious yet it pushes forward unrelentingly no matter how abstract and metaphysical it gets. To match the insanity, stylish visuals portray each colour-coded world quite well. Although I wish there was more variety in the environments, it's great that everything on screen at any given time is clearly distinguishable. Speaking of presentation, the music is composed of a wide assortment of electronic tunes that range from atmospheric to adrenaline-pumping. When you mix in the masterful effects (some of which come out of the controller's speaker), you're left with quite a satisfying soundscape.
So, what makes Klaus' gameplay special? At first, it merely seems like a well done 2D platformer with solid controls where you run and jump through obstacle-filled stages. As you progress, you won't believe how much insanity gets thrown your way. Just thinking about it now makes me want to stop typing and play through the game again. You use the touchpad to highlight onscreen platforms that you can rotate or move with the right stick. Solving puzzles this way while platforming works very intuitively. Early on in the adventure, you gain a hulk-sized ally who can hover after jumping and break certain obstacles by punching them. Considering you have the options to control both characters at the same time and use the big guy to throw the little guy, the puzzles that ensue are nothing short of awesome. Each stage includes a hidden bonus level where you collect fragments of the protagonist's memories. These levels range from mind-bending to hilariously absurd such as when you control a saw and the enemies are clones of the main character. Completing entire memories allows you to play through them in the form of brief abstract scenes that can be simply awe-inspiring.
Even though everything sounds pretty cool at this point, things turn from exciting to downright jaw-dropping once you reach the glitch area of the game. Each portion of this area can be an entire game on its own with all of the crazy mechanics that get introduced. One part acts like Gravity Man's stage from Mega Man 5 except you control the gravity yourself while another part has the screen wrap around itself where running past the right border will make you show up on the left. A segment that I found completely ingenious was one where you control the exit door as well as your character. Trying to get the two to meet up was one of the most enjoyable puzzles that I've ever solved. Another area that stood out was one where you use your dead bodies as platforms. Timing your death so you can hit flying saws at just the right position so a future incarnation can climb to the next checkpoint will definitely put a smile on your face.
The entire journey took me well over three hours to complete. Along the way, I found every single memory fragment without much difficulty. Therefore, the biggest issue that I have with Klaus is that it lacks replay value. You unlock arcade mode upon finishing the game, but all that consists of is a stage select where you have the option to replay levels and collect missing memories or be timed and climb the leaderboards. I wish there was more to do than that. If there were additional collectables or challenges then I'd have more of an excuse to keep playing. Either way you look at it, the core experience is so phenomenal that it doesn't really matter that there isn't much to do when you're done with it. You could always replay the whole thing from the beginning again.
As a side note, I wanted to bring up a pet peeve of mine; final bosses that are massive figures looming in the background with their hands trying to squash you in the foreground. I don't know why so many games have this exact same final boss but this one does, too. Although it's far from a legitimate complaint, I just thought it was funny enough to mention.
Klaus is the best 2D platformer that I've played in a long time. I know it's only January, but I can already tell that this will be one of the most underrated games of the year. If you enjoy 2D platforming even slightly then Klaus is a must-buy title. After playing through the entire journey, you'll think back at what an incredible time you had with it for years to come.
- + Captivating story with an unrelenting pace
- + Satisfying action and puzzle gameplay
- + Wide variety of incredible mechanics get introduced throughout the adventure
- - Environments could use more diversity
- - Not much replay value after you complete the main campaign