Hybrid rhythm games have experienced a revival in the indie scene as of late, with Beatbuddy, Inside My Radio, and Crypt of the NecroDancer among the few that have released in recent years. Klang takes the genre one significant step further by incorporating a euphoric EDM soundtrack by bLiNd, dynamically contrasting graphics that look something like Greek Tron, and challenging gameplay that will keep even hardcore Stepmania speedrunners on fire. Out of the over 90 games on display at the GDC Play area in GDC 2016, Klang climbs to the top of the heap.
First off, Klang is most certainly a headphones kind of game. Not only will you want the soundtrack created by Jordan Aguierre (aka bLiNd) to blast your eardrums, but you'll need to hear the beat with as much precision as possible. The main developer, Tom-Ivar Arntzen, is working to put in a synchronization feature so that the game is attuned to your setup and preferences. When everything works together, Klang becomes a trance-like journey through neon-blazed visuals and psychedelic ecstasy.
Klang's hands-on experience begins with the prologue area, with your character crashing the rave of an irritated DJ that looks like Evil Zeus. In this tutorial section, the game slowly introduces both the rhythmic and platforming elements in two separate areas. The platforming is fairly easy with your character jumping on platforms and wall-jumping his way through the level, while avoiding dangerous obstacles that trigger on the beat.
The rhythmic section is more fixed and has you hitting the right direction in one of the eight proper directions when a blast is about to hit you. On normal mode, this is fairly simple with most notes landing on the full beat, but the highest grade you can achieve is a B (which really won't satisfy anyone). On hardcore mode, you'll face more eighth notes and trickier sequences, but you can grab an S rank if you don't make a mistake and don't get hit.
That's easier than done, of course. Later stages will challenge you to hit arrows and do platforming. Not at the same time, at least within the purview of the prologue. But if the trailer for Klang is any indication, I'll bet that the more difficult levels will have you jumping off floating discs and countering blasts from direction simultaneously.
Balancing platforming and arrow hits becomes even trickier once you can defeat the 3-hour main campaign and unlock Nightcore mode. Similar to the special stages in Super Mario World, Nightcore adds additional levels, 1.5x speed, tighter input windows, new songs and remixes, a SSS-rank, and optional challenges meant to make your eyes bleed and tear your fingers apart. I can't wait.
With both Klang and Thumper hopefully arriving this year, the rhythm genre is in very good hands. Klang is slated for Summer/Fall 2016 for PC at around $10-$20. It may also release on PS4 or Xbox One, but the developers are yet uncertain.