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Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (PlayStation) artwork

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (PlayStation) review

"After playing it, I can only say that it does some things very right and some things not so right..."

I've been looking forward to playing Klonoa for quite some time now as I've heard that it really does platforming right. After playing it, I can only say that it does some things very right and some things not so right...

Klonoa is a 2.5D sidescrolling platformer. This means that while you only ever control the title character in 2D space, the level is a fully rendered 3D world. In some games this is merely an aesthetic choice. In Klonoa, it is a functional part of the gameplay, as you can take paths that lead you into the foreground or deep into part of the background that just seems like window dressing until you go all the way back there. It's one of the big things the game does right. This concept of moving into the background and foreground and the idea of often walking around circular paths is introduced early and keeps delivering in ways that very few games that try out this concept are able. Whether you start out going left to right and then wrap around a hill and go back right to left or take an elevator deep into the background or run through a maze of paths that crisscross over top of and underneath one another, the sense of 3D space the game gives off is delightful.

In each level, you must get to the end while fighting enemies and navigating platforming sections. X is jump, and holding X while in the air makes you flap your ears and hover a second or two. A handful of areas use this gliding ability quite nicely, requiring you to use it to stutter-step in mid-air while you wait for something to happen. But in general, I found that this move breaks up the flow of the game a little too much. 2D platformers are often at their best when you can constantly keep moving forward, so the need to slow things to a halt for a few seconds on many of the games jumps hurts the experience. Fortunately the attack and double jump system fit in perfectly with that feeling of flow. Square makes you shoot out a “wind bullet” a few feet in front of you. If this hits an enemy, it inflates them and pulls them back to you. You hold them over your head and can throw them at other enemies and switches and stuff. You can also press X while in the air to throw them down, which causes Klonoa to effectively double jump. This is a great mechanic that allows you to quickly take down an enemy and then use the enemy to help you traverse the level or reach some high floating pick-up. In general, the levels are pretty easy, with the exception of the final epic-length level and a few hard spots here and there. The bosses are always pretty challenging though.

You fight a boss every 2 levels. They are often fought in unique arenas such as circular areas you can run all the way around or a swing that constantly moves through the background and foreground (some of the last bosses have really cool arenas that I won't spoil!). The bosses typically need to be hit multiple times in specific ways by enemies you can pick up during the battles. Of course, there are all kinds of big boss attacks and environment hazards coming at you in these fights. And of course, some of these bosses have really crazy character design and look quite nice. Which leads into the game's aesthetics...

Unfortunately, I would say that the aesthetics are actually pretty bad in general. The aforementioned bosses are pretty cool, as are a few other characters. And the big bad guy, Ghadius, is genuinely scary. Like, he should be in a horror game scary. The main character, Klonoa, is a gross cat-man with giant ears that act as wings. Ewwww. Many of the other characters are pretty dumb looking too. Like they are tying to be cutesy but failing. The music is the same way, trying to be cutesy and sweet but ending up being a little grating. And the sound effects are a lot grating. The story is fairly throw-away, and takes some bizarrely dark turns that don't work that well (with the exception of some of Ghadius's exposition on his motivations, which are genuinely, un-ironically horrifying).

One fun element worth calling out are the hidden citizens you can find in the levels. They are an almost perfect balance of findable; not too hard to find, but not too easy, which is rare for any game with hidden items. And collecting them all unlocks a super-hard level that is a lot of fun and takes some of the games cooler mechanics to their logical conclusions.

So overall, Klonoa is a lot of fun, and there is a good sense of quality to the level design and the amount of content in the game, but the handful of missteps in the gameplay and the (with a few exceptions) not so great character and sound design mean things are not as fun, fluid, and engaging as they could be. It's a 3 out of 5.


Robotic_Attack's avatar
Community review by Robotic_Attack (August 01, 2015)

Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.

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