Review: Klaus (PS4)

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Title: Klaus
Format: PlayStation Network Download (4.64 GB)
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: La Cosa Entertainment LLC
Developer: La Cosa Entertainment LLC
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E
Klaus is exclusive to PlayStation 4.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
You wake up in a basement with no knowledge on who you are or how you got there and all you have to go on is the word Klaus written on your arm. This is situation the protagonist in Klaus finds himself in at the opening of the game. Using his platforming skills, you are tasked to journey through this building for answers.

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Klaus is a platformer similar to other games like Super Meat Boy or Limbo, just slightly more forgiving. What separates this game from other puzzle platformers on the market is its ability to consistently changes things up by finding new ways to surprise and engage with the player.

I want to avoid spoilers so I unfortunately will have to refrain from going into too much detail on what some of the surprises are and what some of them can do to the base mechanics of the game.

… the game decides to switch things up …
In the early going, you control the protagonist who accepts Klaus as his name and for the first world it is all about him. The puzzles and platforming in this first world are fairly straightforward. There are tight jumps that need to be made and death traps waiting in between.

Despite being pretty straightforward in the first hour, it plays great thanks to the tight controls and striking art style. It is very easy to get into a rhythm and breeze through the early portions, but it is when you finish the first world that the game decides to switch things up.

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This early twist is not much of a spoiler since it’s shown in the trailer and happens relatively early. You are introduced to K1, a brute like character that becomes your ally. When you meet K1 he will then become a playable character and now the player is tasked with bringing two characters through the game at the same time.

You accomplish this by holding R1 to control both characters at the same time or hitting Triangle to swap between them. This change in the second world completely flips the game around causing the player to learn what almost feels like a different game since both characters are completely different in their skillset and movement.

… changes the dynamics early before the game becomes just another platformer …
Klaus has a double jump while K1 only has one jump but he can float in the air and has melee abilities. Another example is their basic movements because K1 moves very slowly in comparison to Klaus who can easily breeze through levels.

Klaus does a great job building levels around both characters and making both seem vital to the game and more importantly, fun to play. Levels will often separate them or find ways to have them work together on a puzzle. In the end it works out wonderfully and changes the dynamics early before the game becomes just another platformer.

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There are twists and turns that this game takes and it compels you to keep playing as the developers find new and ingenious ways to turn things on their head. I wish I could talk in more detail on some of the surprises and twists, but that would massively deflate them for your own experience.

One thing I will say about the story is it does not go out of its way to explain itself. Most of the story is gathered in two ways. First up is through the levels as the game will have the Klaus or K1’s thoughts fill the background of the levels for a nice visual effect.

… a strikingly beautiful game …
The other way is through completely optional collectibles. Most of these are easy to spot and each one unlocks a fragmented memory. When all these fragments are collected you are given more insight to story and main character. These are neat and fun to collect though their optional nature does take away some from the storytelling experience if any are missed.

One technical note I feel I should mention is there were a few occasions where the game would bug out on me. Specifically the camera would sometimes randomly zoom in on the background which caused some annoying deaths here and there. In the end the technical issues were not frequent enough to ruin my play time, yet still popped up enough that I felt it was worth mentioning.

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Visuals:
Klaus is a strikingly beautiful game which adds so much to the experience. The art style can be described as minimalism due to its use of simple shapes and keeping the color palette generally simple world to world.

Basically each world will be associated with a specific color and its shades giving each one a very distinct look and feel. It gradually changes from darker colors to lighter colors as progress is made which I would assume is done on purpose to show the character making progress and finding the truth. The visuals take some pretty interesting turns as you progress, making the most out of the simplistic art style.

Overall the combination of colors and words being plastered throughout the level helps to give a fresh and gorgeous look that makes it stand out from the crowded puzzle platforming genre.

… an early surprise for 2016 …
Audio:
What is there to say for the music of Klaus other than it is damn good. The soundtrack is filled with catchy tracks from hypnotic techno to pop electronic mixes. Each track fits into the feel of a level like a glove and as a true testament to a game’s soundtrack I would find myself with various songs stuck in my head.

In a nice audio trick, the developers have used the speaker on the DualShock 4 for various sounds. For the most part, you’ll hear grunts and sounds of frustration coming from the characters. It is a small aspect of the audio design, but something that is done well and if you are playing with earbuds is something that can be missed.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with online leaderboards for an Arcade Mode that tracks the time a player completes a section.

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Conclusion:
Klaus is an early surprise for 2016 and a game that does a lot while keeping things fairly simple. The story might be too vague for some people’s tastes but I found it very compelling. The game does an admirable job of finding new ways to throw itself on its head and finding ways to play with player’s expectations.

The platforming is tight and more forgiving than others in the genre while still gradually increasing its difficulty. I died a lot while playing though rarely felt that it was the fault of the mechanics or game design.

My entire time spent playing clocked in around five to six hours and it felt like a smart amount of time as it prevented it from spinning its wheels or feeling too short. Often when it comes to the genre I find games to either be too short or just dragging on. Luckily the game avoids both of these fates and left me feeling satisfied with what I played.

If you are looking for a new platformer in 2016, Klaus is very smart and fresh title and it’s definitely worth a look. The ability of the developers to change things up, finding new ways to challenge and engage with its audience, makes it feel special and a standout from the crowd.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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