By: Jared Black
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.
- 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.
- Hunt and
solve gameplay can get repetitive.
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.