Ever since the advent of digital distribution, game consoles have been flooded with puzzle platformers. While the truly innovative like Braid or FEZ still manage to stick out from the crowd, many more get lost in the shuffle. Hopefully La Cosa Entertainment’s Klaus will not be ignored, as the indie studio’s first effort is an impressive affair.
Platformers are rarely known for having rich narratives. After all, the most popular platformer ever made, Super Mario Bros., was simply about saving a princess, so it’s not really a requirement for the genre. What makes Klaus such a unique addition then is that not only does it have a rich narrative, but the entire game is driven by its plot.
La Cosa Entertainment’s debut game begins with the titular character waking up. He has no memory about who he is, or why he is in this strange laboratory. The only clue he has to the mystery that is about to unfold is a tattoo that reads, “Klaus.” The narrative is mostly told through Klaus’ own thoughts, which appears on the game’s backgrounds while he runs across areas.
This is an effect that has been used in other games such as Stealth Inc. 2, and it remains an effective way to tell a story without spoken dialogue. Especially since it allows players to experience a rich narrative without slowing down the gameplay, as you’ll be able to learn his thought process and his vulnerabilities all while the game unfolds.
One of the defining characteristics of Klaus is that the player is an actual character in the game. You’ll control Klaus and he will acknowledge the fact that he is being controlled. This is something that takes the character awhile to cope with, and it’s interesting to see the developers turn what is a normal gameplay mechanic into a plot device.
Klaus isn’t the only thing that the player will interact with, either, as you can also use the DualShock 4’s touchpad in order to select objects in the game’s environment. Once selected, these objects can be manipulated with the right analogue stick. For example, you might have to select a platform and move it closer to Klaus so he can successfully navigate a gap. The actual process of using the touchpad to select the objects is awkward at first, but after an initial feeling out process, it soon became second nature.
Throughout the game, many different abilities are introduced, and even a second playable character is thrown into the mix. Called K1, the second character is the complete opposite of Klaus. While the titular character is quick and smart, K1 is a powerful brute that can smash objects. It’s an interesting change of pace that happens early on in the game, and it completely changes how you solve puzzles.
Despite starting off relatively simple, La Cosa Entertainment has done a fantastic job in making sure the game feels fresh from beginning to end. I was captivated by the story enough to play through it in one very long sitting, and never felt bored by the mechanics. Just when you’ve mastered one skill, another is introduced. No levels are filler, either Rather, everything in the game has a reason to either advance the narrative or show off something new.
One of the most impressive parts of Klaus is how the game builds up most of its mechanics only to break them later. Players are trained to expect certain objects to react in set ways, and the game manages to circumvent these expectations in some very neat ways later on. One of the final areas of the game radically changes how Klaus is played, and even throws out some awesome homages to titles like VVVVVV and Super Rude Bear Resurrection.
Each level in the game also has a hidden memory that is tucked away. Finding the memories is just half of the challenge, though, as players will then have to complete a difficult stage to obtain them. These stages are some of the most unique ones in the game, and offer up some fantastic challenges. From brilliant puzzles to new mechanics, there is always something new that Klaus is introducing to you.
If there is one complaint to be had in Klaus it’s that the platforming doesn’t always feel great. While players will get used to the feel, the jumps initially feel a bit floaty. It doesn’t feel nearly as tight as other standouts like Super Meat Boy, so it’s good that the title focuses more on puzzle solving than precision platforming.
Few games manage to combine action and storytelling so seamlessly. Klaus is a great example that no matter what genre a title is in, a fantastic story can be told. La Cosa Entertainment has crafted a delightful experience here that manages to surprise the player with every new stage, and tests both your reflexes and wit.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 exclusive, which we were provided with.
Klaus is an impressive puzzle platformer that constantly defies the player's expectations. Building up mechanics only to break them, La Cosa Entertainment has crafted one of the most interesting platformers in quite some time.