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Klonoa: Empire of Dreams

Reviewed by MaxH I wouldn't call Klonoa a well established game series (Despite it having three 2d platformers to it's name) but it's fairly well known and unenthusiastically respected. It is a simple 2d platformer like most others, but with that one gimmick that every platformer requires (Sonic has his loop the loops, and Crash has his vehicles). The gimmick in this case is that Klonoa (Who I'm pretty sure is a dog, but he may also be a sheep) can use his magic ring to inflate his enemies and either use them as projectiles, or as means to perform a double jump. It's a very solid and well thought out, if never gripping, game. The story is a typical sugary sweet bag of worried furry creatures and innocent morals. In this case the king of Klonoa's land bans dreaming! Oh dear, what shall we do? Well, Klonoa and his friend Huepow (Who lives in your magic ring) are sent to (or decide to go to, I wasn't exactly awaiting each line of the story with a fevered brow, so the specifics are a little fuzzy) a (probably) magical land, the conquering of which will restore dreams in Klonoa's land. Okay? The play mechanics are simple. Run, jump, attack, repeat. There is slightly more thought to completing the levels than the usual platformer, but it's mindless enough to be played while half asleep. It's all quite enjoyable though. And it's not just a case of getting from A to B. To finish the level and open the exit door, you must collect three stars. Along the way there's also thirty coins to collect in each level, as well as one secret coin (Usually hidden in plain view. Those dastardly villains!). Occasionally a real brain teaser will be thrown up making sure you don't finish the level in a hurry, and there are quite a few sections where you will have to stop and think for a second. The level design is superb, corridors are designed so nothing can be carried through them, wind grates often mess all your plans up, and enemies and blocks are placed tactically. Klonoa is like a constant flow of small rewards, which are personal ones gained for solving the puzzles. Gaining a secret coin, a star, or a door key is particularly satisfying after a battle with a platform, wind grate and a heavy block. You'll be constantly thinking how to get to that high platform when you can't use that enemy to double-jump, or how to cross that wind grate when you can't use the block to weigh you down. There are also the trademark tedium breaking levels such as the snow-boarding ones. These aren't particularly well designed but make for a welcome change of pace in what is mainly a puzzle-based game. Controls are also faultless, this being Namco. There's nothing you'll need to know apart from run, jump and ring attack. So soon you'll be able to rush through the levels. This makes for a fairly speedy pace, without losing any of it's puzzling touch. But therein lies the problem. It's an uneasy mix of simple and puzzly. solving the puzzles can be quite satisfying, but never as much as you'd like it to be. And it's never fast enough to be exciting. It's good fun to play, but never great fun, which it could be if it decided on a style. Unfortunately the soulless boarding levels don't help this, although Namco must be given credit for trying to stretch some thrills out of their game, it simply doesn't work. Also, there isn't a lot to the game. What you do have to do (pick up blocks and enemies and use them to jump higher) is executed perfectly, and makes for a decent platformer, but there's not enough variety or flavour for anyone to be really interested in getting to the end. It's too simple and un-engaging. But the fact that it's so well designed and the touches it does have are well polished and novel, just about makes up for Klonoa's shortcomings. It's not a hard game, but it's not really easy either. You should be able to go through without too much trouble, but the levels are very lengthy (Especially for a handheld platformer) and there are lots and lots of them. The boss levels are especially pleasing. So expect to be playing this for a fair bit, and collecting all of the items is further incentive to replay through the levels. Visually, Klonoa is fairytale like and fluid. the animation on the characters is wondrous, and Klonoa moves beautifully. The platforms and ledges of the foreground are basic, but bright and colourful. While the backgrounds are enchanting and stylishly drawn. With the charming simplicity, stylised characters and lavishly animated backgrounds, the game fits together to form a visual treat. Fits the style of the game perfectly. Sound-wise, it's exactly as you would expect, ho hum ditzy Japanese music and whooshy, plain sound effects. It doesn't annoy, rather it disappears into the background as a completely faceless score. The only things to wake your ears up are the irritating Japanese voice samples. As is the way with all Japanese heroes, Klonoa lets out a disturbingly furious and high pitched blood-curdling scream whenever he does anything. Best played with the volume turned down really. There isn't much to say about Klonoa really. It will most likely go unnoticed by most of you gamers, and the game doesn't do anything to make me want to plead you to do otherwise really. It's fun to play through, a solidly executed idea and almost faultlessly designed (Although the fact that you can get irretrievably stuck in some bits, forcing you to retry the level does worry me). But it's not quite good enough to deserve any accolades. Undemanding and unexciting fun. Klo-yes-a + Fun to play + Excellent level design + Brain taxing enough to be separated from Rayman and the like + Attempts ARE made at variety + Long-lasting levels + smooth gameplay + Perfect learning curve + Never frustrating + It's a long game + Compelling enough to make you want to get everything + Glorious visual style + Clever central idea Klo-no-a + Never exciting + Constantly uninvolving + Not enough variety + Slightly repetitive + Sound that may induce homicidal behaviour + It would be nice for some bigger challenges every now and then + The boarding section are, er, stinky If you like this.... Klonoa: Door to Phantomile - Playstation: Similarly flawed but enjoyable 2d platformer Klonoa: Lunatea's Veil - Playstation 2: Haven't played it myself yet, but it looks stunning and is meant to be the best of the series yet. Pinobee: Wings of Adventure - GBA: Like this, it presents some novel ideas. Slightly dull execution and level design though.

Overall: 7 out of 10

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