|Publisher||Snow Cannon Games|
|Release Date||September 22, 2016|
Review code provided
Klang is a bit different. A rhythm platformer that, while probably not the first of its kind, is certainly rare enough to feel unique. It’s a fast-paced platforming game set in a world timed to a beat. Everything from the combat to the exploration, platforming and challenges are set to the pattern of a killer electronic soundtrack and some truly impressive neon visuals.
The story is told entirely wordlessly, so I’m going to rely on my interpretation of events combined with liberal borrowing from the Steam store page, but it goes a little something like this. Klang sees you playing as the title character. Armed with a pair of tuneblades, he’s booted out of whatever rave-powered world he was inhabiting by a guy who can be described as a rock-and-roll Zeus. The story is pretty threadbare, told wordlessly through stylistically impressive cutscenes.
As a vehicle to propel you through the game it’s functional. It’s the gameplay itself that is truly fascinating in Klang. I mean that positively, by the way. Positively fascinating. I don’t think I’ve quite played a game like Klang before. It certainly feels reminiscent of other rhythm-based games (Retrograde and Spoiler Alert spring to mind), but Klang is definitely its own beast.
For starters, it’s incredibly fast-paced. Klang begins slowly enough, spending time during its prologue to ease you into its unique take on platforming. Enemies in Klang attack you to the beat of the music – typically they will surround you. Their attacks are telegraphed by cones that slowly fill up. Once these cones are fully charged you’ll need to hit the corresponding face button or flick the right analogue stick in that direction to deflect the attack (I highly recommend a controller for the experience, by the way).
All of these attacks are timed to the music. While you can get by these initial encounters without the music, this timing is crucial as the difficulty goes up. Enemy attacks start coming at you faster and encounters become increasingly more complex. As you make your way through Klang your movements become one with the beat of the music. Your capability for multitasking will be pushed to the limit as Klang layers challenge after challenge on top of its core combat.
Because Klang is a very different style of game from any that I’m used to, it took a while for me to get settled with its style of gameplay. The opening hour or so was frustrating as I struggled to get to grips with what the game wanted from me. Klang is a very challenging game, especially for someone as rhythmically impaired as me and I struggled to find my groove. Then, all of a sudden, I had a moment of clarity during a mid-game boss battle.
The music, combat and platforming all clicked in my brain and it was like I finally understood what the game was trying to get me to do. It was still difficult, of course. But it suddenly felt as though I was at one with the game. The music helped, perfectly fitting the core gameplay, the neon aesthetic and the world in general. Plus it’s pretty great in its own right too.
Klang changes the game for the rhythm genre. Whereas its stablemates generally task you with passively pushing buttons in time to the music, it pushes you to be much more active. In combat this works great. In platforming sections, however, not so much. Part of this is down to the specific platforming challenges that you’ll be faced with. Generally, you’ll have to avoid what I call red cones of death, which act almost like security cameras – get caught in one and you’ll be instantly obliterated.
Usually, you’ll need to get past them as they switch on and off to the beat of the music. Other times you’ll need to navigate around a level fulfilling a specific task while trying to avoid them as they’re changing locations. These sections of gameplay often felt like they were at odds with the core rhythmic gameplay. While everything still worked to the beat, I’d usually have to come to a screeching halt to try and circumnavigate these one-hit kills traps.
Death means being sent back to the beginning of a level, although most are mercifully pretty short, with Klang being designed to throw challenges at you in short bursts, befitting its lightning quick gameplay. But it’s the pace of its gameplay and the accompanying music that sets itself at odds with the sometimes slow, methodical way some of these sections need to be approached. Other times I found myself in a battle of attrition with these particular sections – my only way forward was to seemingly learn the specific patterns through trial and error. And a whole lot of death.
The visuals sometimes cause problems for Klang too. Don’t get me wrong, Klang is a very good looking game. It’s stark use of colours in its neon-infused settings both fits the game perfectly and looks gorgeous. But as the pace of the game quickens and sections grow in complexity there can be an awful lot happening on the screen at any given moment. I often found myself losing track of where attacks were coming from due to an overload of colour.
Chaining together successful combos also has a habit of changing the colour of a level, which can also have the same effect. These visual issues can cause some repetition, as Klang can’t take much punishment before dying, which can lead to some otherwise interesting levels becoming frustrating. An initial playthrough of the game is relatively short, clocking in at around 2-3 hours from start to finish, a little more if you’re dying a lot. Klang, however, is built on replayability. Finishing the game on Hardcore mode will unlock an extra level of difficulty called Nightcore Mode, which I haven’t tried but assume, from playing Hardcore Mode, is utterly brutalising.
Klang is a good game with a couple of issues that hold it back from being great. Its fast-paced rhythm platforming feels unique and combat, especially boss fights, is extremely well put together. When the gameplay, visuals and music are in sync it can almost be a zen-like experience, and there are definitely moments where I lost myself to the games rhythm. Klang does have some issues with visual overload. Sometimes there’s just too much going on at once onscreen to keep up with, and the game has a habit of throwing you into platforming sections that can break your flow. Overall though, Klang is a solid platformer with a gorgeous neon art style and a fantastic soundtrack to back up its rhythm-based gameplay.
You can check out the Words About Games review policy, which includes our score guide, by clicking here.