“Klang” is the sound you hear when two good ideas clash.
“Hybrid” is a word that comes up a lot in video games nowadays. Genre mash-ups have become more ubiquitous as the Well of Video game Genres begins to run dry. And that’s okay; I wouldn’t want to live in a world without Dark Souls (Action RPG) or Braid (Existential Platform Puzzler). Most genres play nice with each other, but the rhythm game genre has typically been the misfit of the group (dare I say, The Misfits), choosing to stay in its own niche corner of Japanese arcade sensations and handheld vocaloid simulators. When I was presented with the chance to play Klang, a game promising to mix the demanding precision of the rhythm game genre with the equally demanding precision of the platformer, I jumped at the opportunity. Jumped. And landed right on my face.
Klang starts off simple enough. A nameless DJ/raver gets his butt handed to him by some EDM deities and, equipped with two giant tuning forks, fights his way to the top with the power of music. Enemy projectiles form convenient directional cues that must be pressed in a timely fashion in order to deflect. All the while, this nameless ninja must wall-jump around obstacles and avoid falling into the numerous bottomless pits that make up this neon-drenched nirvana. Each level is a bite-sized sample of a much larger EDM track that slowly builds up to a crescendo as the boss approaches. On paper, this sounds like every Dance Dance Revolution fanboy’s fever dream. Unfortunately, it’s more akin to their worst nightmare as the game struggles to maintain its balance.
The key to any good platformer is that said platforms are fun to navigate. Unfortunately, Klang’s platforms feel more like placeholders. It doesn’t help that levels are short, often lasting under a minute. And if you thought a guy who looks like a kid dressing up as a Mortal Kombat character of his own design should have some enemies to fight, you would be gravely mistaken. As far as I could tell, the only “enemies” you fight are the light projectors that show up periodically shoot you a directional cue.
This is where the “rhythm” part of the game comes in. Arrows will come from all four cardinal directions (with the occasional diagonal) in time with the music. It’s an interesting way to keep the platforming and the rhythm game independent of each other, but it weakens both as a result. Platforming is kept basic so as not to impose on the rhythm, and the inputs have no impact other than preventing damage from being taken. Boss fights fare a little better, with the mechanics introduced throughout culminating into one “track,” but the character and level designs are so bland that the only reason why they stood out was their difficulty.
I say “bland,” which flies in the face of what screenshots of this game will have you believe. The game’s use of stark contrast and luminous colors are one of its few merits. That and the music, which is so good it made me wish I had bought just the soundtrack instead. If you’re looking for a variety of musical genres to satisfy your diverse palette, however, I’m afraid that dubstep will have to suffice. The game otherwise sticks to its trance-heavy groove.
I mentioned difficulty earlier, because despite this game’s short, short length—I completed it in under two hours—this game will test your patience. One-hit kills are swift and abundant. Many levels are front-loaded with controller-crushing difficulty spikes that inexplicably ease up in the second half. Some stages are frustrating due to a lack of clear direction. Dodging and deflecting your way into a rhythm only to have it end with you falling off an unseen edge is incredibly infuriating. While levels are thankfully short in that regard, it disrupts the flow—that essential element of any good rhythm game—and makes for a jarring, unpleasant experience.
Klang’s good ideas are upstaged by their own poor execution. Neither the rhythm or the platforming are good enough to stand on their own, with the sum of their parts still failing to add up to a complete experience. I wanted to like Klang, but this hybrid is less of a chimera and more of an abomination. At least the music was good.