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Klonoa: Empire of Dreams

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Namco
Publisher:  Namco
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Platformer
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  11-5-01

The Klonoa series is a relatively new one, having established itself on the PSX several years ago. While the original was a critical success, it wasnít matched with an appropriate amount of sales success. Nevertheless, it was obviously popular enough to warrant furthering the franchise, and as a result we have not only a PS2 sequel but also this spin-off handheld game. How lucky we are.

In a nutshell, the Klonoa series revamps 2D platforming for a new age. On the PSX and PS2 itís a "2.5D game" (3D world with 2D paths), but this game is a true return to the genreís roots with a 2D world and paths. The story is that a grumpy Emperor is suffering from insomnia, and as a result has banned dreaming. Klonoa broke the law, and was subsequently imprisoned. In order to win his freedom, Klonoa sets out on a journey to rid the land of several monsters creating havoc throughout the land.

For the most part the game plays like your typical platformer, although there are several differing gameplay mechanics. Klonoa utilizes a ring to manipulate the wind, and by doing this he can grab monsters and other items off the ground and out of the air. Once heís grabbed something, he can then use it to propel himself higher than a normal jump could via a double jump. So the result is a lot of jumping, grabbing onto things in mid-air, and solving puzzles utilizing things in the surrounding area. To advance in each stage, Klonoa must find three keys in each level and use them to open up the corresponding door. To complete each "vision" (stage), Klonoa must locate and collect three stars to open up the Moon Door at the end of each stage. This plus the level structure (2-1, 2-2, etc.) results in a fairly linear experience, although several levels in each world can be completed in differing orders. At times this can get very repetitive (find key A, solve puzzle, find key B, etc.), but luckily there are several alternate levels found in each world which help to break up the monotony. These include automatically scrolling levels (both vertically and horizontally) as well as forward scrolling hover board stages.

The controls are extremely tight. Klonoa will do exactly what you want him to do at all times, assuming you push the proper buttons. Never do the controls lag, nor do they work in different ways. The use of 2D helps to keep things focused and centered, missing some of the control problems that can plague 3D platformers.

The graphics are nice, although not overwhelming. Each world has its own distinct look, although that look can get repetitive by the 5th or 6th level in that world. Backgrounds have several layers of parallax scrolling, and each level is vibrant and easy to see in mediocre lighting. The enemies are virtually identical to the ones found in Klonoa II on the PS2, although theyíre 2D sprites instead of 3D polygonal models. Everything is animated well, although again itís nothing that will knock your socks off.

The sound is similar to the graphics, in that itís also very solid but nothing special. The music for each world is catchy and well done, and doesnít get too annoying over repeated loops. The sound effects are rather sparse however, as Klonoa only makes two sounds (one when jumping and one when dying) and enemies and environments are pretty quiet.

Other than the occasionally repetitive gameplay, the other main problems with Klonoa are that itís simply too easy and short. There are plenty of levels (40+) to be conquered, but most of them arenít very long and the puzzles never get terribly difficult (although theyíll often make you think) to extend the game artificially.

Highs:

  • The gameplay harkens back to the "good old days" of platforming.
  • The controls are spot-on regardless of the situation. I never felt like I wasnít responsible for what happened.
  • Vibrant and colorful (although not complex) graphics.
  • Puzzles are never too challenging that they canít be solved, but they always make you think about what youíre doing.

Lows:

  • Hunt and solve gameplay can get repetitive.

Final Verdict:

Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is an excellent handheld platformer. While not quite on the level of Castlevania or Rayman, it provides a different kind of platforming experience (more focused on puzzle-solving) thatís well worth the cost of entry.

Overall Score: 8.6

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