Klaus is his name. Klaus is in a basement. Klaus wants out of wherever this place is. These are things that Klaus knows and they are important to him because he does not know much else. Think about your life for a moment. Whether you consider it to be fantastic, lacking or even crappy, one thing is certain: it could be much worse. Your wife might be a lousy cook, but you know that food is waiting for you when you reach home. That homeless guy you passed doesn’t know when he will eat next. You might hate your job but there is a guy in your building getting evicted because he cannot pay his bills. In each of our lives, there are things that constitute our daily routine. We might consider them mundane but there is always someone that would potentially kill to have what you take for granted. This is where we come back to Klaus and his mission. He is ready to do anything to get back what was lost. That includes accepting help from a complete stranger or two. Klaus is not sure if he can trust you but right now he has no choice.
HI! MY NAME IS. . . He wakes up and looks around. “This is a basement,” he thinks to himself. Looking around, he notices a tattoo on his arm that says “Klaus.” Figuring that to be his name, he moves forward. Klaus does not know where he is or why he is there; he really has no recollection of anything. However, this place is dank, full of things that will turn him into hamburger and there are a lot of creepy sounds. He knows that he wants out of there. He is also aware of your presence as the player since someone or something is opening doors for him. Since you seem to have his best interests in mind, he is thankful to you. As Klaus moves forward he starts to get these memory flashes and remembers things. And then you run into K1. K1 looks like a giant, smelly, goofy version of Klaus and he wants nothing to do with the oaf. This changes as time passes and Klaus realizes that K1 does not want to hurt him. Now he just has to figure some things out:
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
- Where is here?
- Why am I in this situation?
Feeling like a blank slate scares the crap out of Klaus and he is desperate to get his memories back. Despite being a 2D, side-scrolling puzzle adventure, -Klaus- does an excellent job of conveying paranoia, anxiety and sadness. If you have ever been lost in the dark, you know that no one wants to be alone. Imagine being alone, suffering from amnesia and surrounded by deadly traps and pitfalls. This is what Klaus is dealing with and he refuses to lose. Make sure you help him out properly. He absolutely does not want to end up as one of those ripped shirts in a fan blade that he keeps seeing.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? It is oddly reassuring that these rooms full of deathtraps seem to guide you in the right direction. Even when the path branches in two directions you can easily figure out which path to take first. This does not make Klaus feel any better because showing him the way only makes him feel dread; like someone is positive that he will not make it. The order of the day is to make Klaus run and jump at the right times to avoid certain, gruesome death. The writing on the wall makes it clear early on that it is not “just” run and jump. The player, as Klaus’ invisible ally, must activate doors and platforms that will transport and protect him on his journey. This is done with the touchpad and platforms are controlled with the right analog. When K1 enters the story, you often need him in order to advance. K1 can punch through certain obstacles and he can destroy most electronics. When an area is out of your reach, Klaus gives the assist by tossing you towards your objective. You need to be quick in switching control between them because you usually need to jump again after a K1 toss. Every now and again, you get an auto-scrolling level that has all the frustration and controller tossing madness of a similar Mario level. This adds to the overall charm of the game and I am sure it won’t be long before we see speed runs pop up online. -Klaus- has a Mario Bros. style of play but I really like to think of this game as “Sloth love Chunk.” If you don’t get that reference, I feel for you, seriously. K1 is the big, goofy dude that wants to protect Klaus. Klaus slowly warms up to the big, smelly monster guy that is always a little too close to him. This is their adventure and this makes it awesome. You will be glad to be a part of it.
THIS IS SO…RED This is where I had to pay attention. The graphical style of the game is very retro. It looks like it could be a coin-op arcade game and there is even an Arcade Mode to unlock. That said, to say that this game does not belong on the PS4 or it looks like an (insert old console name) would not be accurate. Just like the life examples I mentioned earlier, this game has a lot of things going on that we will take for granted. If you even just notice all the steam and dripping water, pouring acid and moving gears and platforms, you can tell that it takes power to make all of that happen simultaneously at a decent framerate. The sound also drives that point home. First, much props to Pixkong for a really awesome collection of background pieces that sound just right in an assembly line, construction type of setting. Listen to all the various sound effects that blend in with the music: Klaus & K1’s footsteps, their voices and all the noises of the world they are in. There is no clipping or skipping; everything blends together.
I have a feeling that the reception of -Klaus- will be varied. If you just play through it, you might think it is just another platformer. I know enough people that can never be bothered to watch cutscenes or read the story in an instruction manual. I, on the other hand, always wanted to know more about the game that I was playing. Even before I started reviewing games I Figuratively see how deep the rabbit hole goes. -Klaus- delves deep into what makes us tick. Here we have this guy who honestly is not even sure that is his name. The only thing he can be absolutely sure of is that he is in danger. If that was the only thing you knew in life you’d be pretty terrified and looking to anyone for help. K1 however, is at ease and always has a smile on his face. At one point, Klaus remarks that K1 must know who he is and know the answers to the questions in his mind. The story of this game is that deep and it is unfortunate that some may not care about that. The execution of said story is more simplistic: survive is the name of the game. When you control Klaus, he is going to die, probably a lot of times. That does not make the game especially difficult. -Klaus- will also try your patience, especially if you die several times in the same spot. That is where you have to stop and breathe deeply a few times. You will make it past and probably have a big dumb grin like K1 on your face. Everyone should play -Klaus-; what you get out of it will vary from person to person. It may just be a fun game that you played or maybe, like Klaus, you will have the satisfaction of knowing. Regardless of the outcome, I think everyone will want a giant version of themselves that will smash things on command for them.