Platforming and narrative elements rarely accompany each other in a video game. When the two elements meet, the effect is usually a disjointed one that leaves the player desiring more from one or the other. Characters in these types of games rarely develop in any way and narrative points serve only to draw the player into the next room. Klaus defies these convention with relatable, dynamic characters and an emotional narrative that pulls the player forward with the temptation to discover more of the story.
The first game from developer La Cosa Entertainment, Klaus is a 2D platformer centered around the journey of one man who wakes up in a basement without any idea who he is or where he is. A single word tattooed on his arm serves as the only clue to his identity: “Klaus.” Soon after he sets out for answers, Klaus teams up with the enigmatic K1, a primitive and quiet inhabitant of the building where Klaus wakes up.
The narrative features of Klaus emerge in a way that pulls the player in and pushes him not only to the next room but to the very next platform. As Klaus moves through a level, small blocks of text reveal themselves in the environment above Klaus or superimposed on a platform as if the text is part of the environment itself. Very early on, the player connects with Klaus as he slowly begins to work through his struggle to figure out his identity. I became so engrossed in Klaus’s development that my motivation for solving the game’s puzzles and progressing wasn’t the satisfaction of moving on but the rather the urge to find out what Klaus had to say next.
Besides Klaus’ personal development throughout the game, secret levels are hidden in each area that unlock a memory from Klaus’ past. These levels cleverly reflect the memories that they are associated with. For example, completing a level in which Klaus can only move left reminds Klaus that he is left-handed. Finding all of these secret levels in each area takes the player to an emotionally touching level where Klaus runs and jumps through fragments of his memory.
Klaus‘s gameplay develops throughout the game almost as much as Klaus himself does. With each new area that Klaus reaches, new environmental objects keep the player engaged and challenged. A key feature of the game, one that I didn’t even notice until a good few hours in, is the abundance of checkpoints and the unlimited number of lives.
At first glance, this may give pause. Surely this makes the game too easy, right? Instead, this takes all the frustration out of facing the game’s difficult and precise platforming. Instead of throwing my controller at the TV when I fell into the pit of spikes, I laughed at myself and tried again. These elements, paired with Klaus and K1’s text blocks, prevent the gameplay from ever becoming stale or repetitive.
On top of these gameplay elements, Klaus meaningfully utilizes the features of the PS4’s controller, which is in itself a rarity among PS4 games. The controller’s touchpad frequently plays an essential part in getting Klaus through a level by allowing the player to manipulate platforms and open gates. The controller’s lightbar changes color to match the prominent background color of each area and the controller’s speaker plays Klaus and K1’s audio.
Though I try, I can’t convey how great of an experience Klaus offers. The game presents itself as a simple platformer but sticks with you as a game that handles the genre in innovating ways that stick with you after you finish. Find out more about the game at the official website.
The Next Level of Platformer
Gameplay - 10/10
Plot - 10/10
Design - 10/10
+ strong narrative elements
+ challenging and engaging gameplay
+ uses the potential of the PS4 controller