I walked blindly into ‘Klaus’, with just seeing the trailer and merely expecting a Speed Runners (A PC title by DoubleDutch games) rip off. Instead, I got a unique experience with concrete depth and fun gameplay. ‘Klaus’ is an independent title developed La Coza and available on the PlayStation Network for purchase.
In this 2D platformer, the gameplay starts off normal. You control Klaus through basic puzzles; run, jump, climb and avoid the spikes/acid. The elements do tend stay basic and I found a lot the sections to be a copy of other games such as ‘Gravity Guy’ and ‘Shift’. Despite the lack of unique elements, there is still a lot of variation in the gameplay that combines these elements into satisfying and challenging results. From the story driven bonus stages to the variety of obstacles, ‘Klaus’ will keep you on your toes. Some areas integrate gameplay mutators, which force you to look at a simple stage from a totally different perspective. One example being where you are controlling multiple Klauses but their inputs are identical on separate terrains.
With integration of the PS4 touchpad you can also control certain platforms through quick swipes and positioning. This might seem gimmicky at first but they play a key factor in the difficulty of the game where you have to put in serious forethought to the positioning of or simultaneously controlling Klaus and the platforms. You control two players eventually, who possess their own separate moves to combat the terrain. And thus comes the core gameplay of ‘Klaus’: Controlling both the characters, a brains and brawn duo, and the platforms to reach the end of an unpredictable level. Caffeine and ignorance will literally kill you in game, you have been warned. Clocking in about 800 deaths in one playthrough, I am still trying to comprehend the story and enjoying the game at my own pace.
The main driving point of ‘Klaus’ is the story which is layered with the progress you make, bit by bit. It is intuitively presented in texts in-line with the stage as you traverse further. There are numerous head turning moments, but the first and most important one is when Klaus starts talking to you, the player. There is no voice acting though, be prepared for a lot of grunts and reading. Once the ‘fourth wall break’ is established, Klaus’ ramblings truly start to immerse the player as Klaus is aware of his situation and that the player is in control. Klaus is an amnesiac man whose only clue is ‘Klaus’ tattooed on his arm. He is a stern man who wants to regain his control and his memory. Later on, you meet K1; a built yet simple minded version of Klaus (Or so it seems). He is much more sensible about his situation as he has been in this place for a long time. Their two personalities, as much as they clash, bring them together in the harsh scenarios. Aside for the texts and visual cues, you can pick up secret pieces of doors or ‘memories’ in which he finally remembers a key point and this is where, in my opinion, the game shines
La Coza didn’t shy away from telling you the story exactly how they wanted. These ‘Bonus’ stages walk you through Klaus’ life, from the past to the present. Each key memory is presented with an intricate and abstract scenery of which I have not seen before. They keep the mysterious tone of the game yet with a worthwhile feeling of connection within the story, for Klaus himself and even for the player. The overall tale then turns into a metaphysical conundrum. Read up on metaphysics if you like, but Klaus and K1 come to question their existence in their current life and who they are. The first ending leads you to fitting conclusion with Klaus accepting his role in all of this. Only until it flings you back to square one like Icarus hurtling back towards the earth. I can’t spoil too much from here on out as you will need multiple playthroughs to appreciate the depth of the narrative and to, maybe, get the true ending.
Much of the art style is minimalistic, but that seems to be intentional. The art scheme seems to follow the atmosphere and differs by stage, ranging from a desolate red and dark basement to a black and white glitched-out world in a computer. The color schemes of the individual stages complement and contrast quite nicely to keep them all unique but there’s a certain fidelity that the art style follows and even flows through the puzzles and the gameplay. The soundtrack complements the aesthetic of the game very well too. There are original tracks that range from contemporary to classic arcade music, with an electronic twist. The music does cut out at some points but it is something that can be hopefully be patched.
‘Klaus’, despite what I just mentioned about the difficulty, is meant to be played slowly and meticulously. There is an Arcade mode for the speed demons but you have to unlock it by finishing the game. ‘Klaus’ breathes life back into the 2D genre by intertwining the gameplay and story for a solid experience. The gameplay possesses a lot of variety leading to challenging and entertaining playthrough.
Bryan Salik is a writer who may be new to writing but has been with gaming since the cartridge generation. Check out more of my work on Medium at https://medium.com/@bssalik.