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
+ 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
+ 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