KLAUS has been on my gaming radar for quite some time, I was intrigued by the overall premise of the story where you awake with no memory of who or where you are. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I’m a big fan of the puzzle platformer genre, but this can be a double edged sword as so many in this genre leave me wanting more as they become all too repetitive.
That left me asking the question, does KLAUS leave you wishing you could forget or is it simply forgettable?
KLAUS has a distinctive look and feel that makes it easily recognizable no matter where you find yourself within it. As the game begins you find yourself in the basement of an unknown location, the entire game takes place within the multiple floors of this building. The 6 world’s that make up KLAUS each represent a distinct floor of the building, from the basement to the rooftop.
While each floor has a distinct look that makes it stand out from the others, they all have a consistency that ties them together in such a manner that they feel as if they belong. In addition to the stylistic choices that unify all of the rooms on any given floor, the challenges faced within them also carries a level of consistency in the manner in which they’re deployed against you.
However there are a few areas of the game that don’t necessarily take place within the building, these occur within; collectibles, memories, and even inside the system itself.
Every collectible you encounter sucks you into some deep, dark, recess of the mind where you’re able to collect a lost fragment of your memory. The rooms that you’ll face within these collectibles all carry a consistent look between them, however they all present their own unique challenges in gameplay and thought. Some are incredibly simplistic, but challenge the way you would typically approach this style of game. While others are more along the lines of what you’d expect from a puzzle platformer.
Once you’ve collected all 6 memory fragments from one of the world’s, you’ll unlock the associated set of memories. They’re visually beautiful and truly unexpected moments within the game, a stark contrast to everything else you’ll encounter within it.
Then of course you’ll find Glitch World, where you’ve hacked the system to find a very retro gaming/ VHS era environment that challenges the conventions of game development on so many levels.
The game begins as you awake in a basement, of an unknown location, with absolutely no memory of who you are. Your only clue is the word “KLAUS” written on your arm.
In a typical platformer this is where the storytelling/ setup would end, as there tends to be more of an emphasis on gameplay. However KLAUS isn’t your typical puzzle platformer. Not only do they build onto that simple setup but they’ve woven an incredibly engaging storyline, that deals with complex concepts regarding life and our position within it, directly into the gameplay in a manner that encourages you to reach the end.
As you play, the story is primary told through dialouge that appears as you progress through the level. At times the dialouge appears as an internal monologue of sorts, while others KLAUS clearly breaks the fourth wall and is speaking to you directly. At times you may find yourself inadvertently ignoring the dialogue as it appears on screen, because you’re having fun, but you’ll want to take the time to appreciate the gameplay and story as they go hand in hand.
Of course there’s another vehicle in which the story reveals itself, throughout the levels you’ll find hidden collectibles that allow you the ability to recover fragments of lost memories. As you piece them together, you’ll begin uncovering your past which truly becomes an emotional journey of self discovery and realization.
When I sat down to play KLAUS I was expecting a fairly standard puzzle platformer, but it quickly revealed itself to be so much more. However from the perspective of gameplay, they absolutely nailed it!
You’ll play the entirety of the Basement World as KLAUS, he’s an ideal character for this style of gameplay. You’ll rely on his small stature, sprinting, and double jump abilities to survive the harsh obstacles of the game. However by the time you’ve moved onto the next world, you’ll have befriended K1, who looks a lot like KLAUS, as a playable character.
Where KLAUS brings speed and agility, K1 is a gentle giant that brings an ability to smash and glide with ease. However K1 doesn’t have the ability to double jump, but the use of his uppercut ability will act in a very similar fashion.
Through most levels you’ll carry both characters simultaneously, you have the option to control them independent of each other toggling back and forth or you can move them in tandem while you can. The size difference and unique abilities present multiple challenges in which you’ll need to separate and reunite both characters in order to reach the exit.
Considering KLAUS is on the PS4, the development team was presented with the option to integrate the touchpad controller feature into the game. Any time you’re presented with options that’ll ultimately affect the way the end user will play the game, you need to be very conscious and deliberate about those decisions. When developers shoehorn functionality into a game that serves no greater purpose other than utilizing an option specific to one platform or another, it can create a relatively annoying and at times uncomfortable gaming experience. I mention this because it truly felt like the touchpad functionality wasn’t shoehorned into the game, but it had been there from the beginning. Despite being a bit awkward at times, the way the touchpad is used aids in the sense that we’re an outside force aiding KLAUS along his journey instead of actually being KLAUS.
The development team really took their time in creating unique world’s within the memory fragments, each presents a unique challenge that you’ll need to figure out in order to come out ahead. However so many of them truly challenge the way we approach the typical platformer level, the beautiful thing is its always in tune with the story development as opposed to simply adding an additional challenge to overcome. There will be times you’ll find yourself moving simultaneously on multiple planes, where you’ll need to avoid various obstacles. Other times you’ll find yourself pushing the limits of gravity, or the story itself/ words will become the Platformers where you’ll need to pay attention to tone/ color in order to avoid the deadlier elements.
Of course nothing challenges the standard conventions of game development than Glitch World, where reality is pushed to the limit and obstacles aren’t what they seem. Then again, at times you’ll find the only way you can survive is by sacrificing yourself. Typically when you die you respawn and don’t leave anything behind, except in this world where you’ll find endless stretches of deadly spikes that can only be traversed by walking atop the corpses you’ve left behind.
Aside from a few adult themes in the narrative of the game, primarily contained within the details of the uncovered memories, this is a perfectly age appropriate platformer for any young gamer. My 8 year old and I had a lot of fun taking turns playing through the game together, the lack of any blood and language makes this a perfect game to buddy play together.
Once you’ve beaten the game, you’ll unlock “Arcade Mode” which allows you the ability to choose a specific level of any world that you’d like to instantaneously jump into. Before accessing the level it even displays whether or not you missed the collectible memory for the level, just in case you missed a few on your first play through. For those of you that might be a tad bit competitive, Arcade Mode also unlocks the timed trials and leaderboards.
One thing that would make KLAUS absolutely perfect, would be the introduction of a level creator/ editor tool into the game. This would encourage a whole new level of fan engagement and ensure that it lives beyond the first few play throughs in every household.
La Cosa Entertainment is currently working to bring KLAUS to the PS Vita, however there isn’t a release date as of yet. But it’s worth keeping an eye out for it.
At first glance KLAUS appeared to be a fairly standard puzzle platformer, full of death defying obstacles just waiting for you to fail and fail again. However it didn’t take long to realize that KLAUS was anything, but standard.
Not only did La Cosa Entertainment succeed in delivering some of the best platformer gameplay I’ve encountered in recent years, but the truly unexpected surprise was the depth of story contained within the game. They deftly weave an existential narrative that takes you on a, surprisingly emotional, journey of self discovery and realization. The only reason you’d ever want to forget KLAUS, is so you’d have an opportunity to discover it all over again. Regularly priced on PSN for $19.99, there’s really no reason to hesitate… Buy It Now.