Klang 2 Review: Music to My Ears
Rhythm-based combat has always been such a fickle mechanic. A tantalizing fruit for many that only some have nibbled on, and others stare longingly at. No Straight Roads adventured out with it and got a bit lost; Boy Beats World took it for an 8-bit joy ride with surprising gusto, and Tinimations tried a while back with Klang, a more platformer-based game that fought the good fight but struggled to keep the beat straight. Klang 2, however, takes on capturing this fruit with an assault of point-and-click gameplay not unlike osu!. But does this bombastic blitz of bass finally break rhythm combat out of its shell, or does the klang of noise obscure another mixed attempt? Let’s find out!
Welcome to the Club
First impressions are a must, especially when your opening sets the mood for games and raves alike. I’ll preface here by saying that this game, sans the music, was all done by one guy. No matter what I could say from here on, some serious respect should be given to anyone with the gusto to do all of this on their own, with Tinimations being no exception.
The subdued art style limits itself to blue hues with occasional highlights of orange and pink, creating an almost Tron-like digital landscape. It’s easy on the eyes, and while it leaves a few blank spaces, it’s welcome for its minimalism since the combat relies on the ability to see input cues clearly. An intelligent design, in my opinion, and when it’s out of combat, it feels free to get a bit more ballsy with the colors. I never felt it hurt my eyes; rather, it soothed them. The environments varied from a beachside with purple sand to a darkened transport tunnel. There wasn’t much to see, but what was there helped create a sense of progression from one area to the next.
Klang’s cyber-goth-meets-Greek-armor appearance, while in need of just a bit more accentuation, works as a more realistic approach that I definitely don’t mind. Details never stand out too much or hurt the eyes to look at. Which is entirely good, as I feel if he became too distracting, it’d interfere with the gameplay. His armor, adorned with little music-based flourishes, helps bring home that Greek vibe and music symbolism that the first game focused on. Another nice touch is when you interact with A-Eye. The scene limits itself to just the eyes and mouth of the two, again borrowing that minimalism with a unique aesthetic. Really, this is pretty darn close to how I’d picture a techno-era cyberscape to look like, and it does it in a way that’s always a treat to look at. Having come from most rhythm games that are often a limited, static background, this is very refreshing to see Klang zipping around the stage. If there’s one complaint I’d make, it’s that the quality of the animation feels a bit stiff, which is odd seeing that the first Klang has rather smooth animations. But, again, this is a minor issue when you consider just how much the developer has done right when it comes to Klang 2’s aesthetics.
As for the story, it’s a bit reliant on you having gone through the first game, but it does have an in-game encyclopedia of terms so you can get caught up. Put simply, Klang is a sonic soldier hell-bent on revenge against Sonus, the god-ruler of the crumbling city he lives in. Klang lost his eyes to the last battle against Sonus and now has to rely on an eldritch creature summoned to Klang’s world to get his sight back and fight again. Armed with a cursed Royal Tuneblade, Klang works out the kinks in his weapon to go confront the mad god that doomed his world. Admittedly, reading this back to myself, the plot’s out there but also sounds wicked. It does miss a few marks for being overly complicated at times, a real network of backstabs on backstabs, but having braved the complications, I can say it’s a neat little addition to what could’ve sold itself as just a rhythm game but dared to go a bit further. For those that could care less, though, you can opt-out of story stuff from the start or later on via the options menu, so you can just go through the setlist and bosses without being bugged by the details.
The overall gameplay is where we have some ups and downs. It plays very similar to osu!, where you point and click at various circles that require you to do different things. Some parts will need you to swipe, while others will have you hold the click down. While I didn’t struggle much to get up to speed with my mouse (with the help of drastically adjusting my CPI), it’s got a learning curve. Some gameplay elements sync really well with the music, and once you find the beat, it’ll practically play itself. At other points, it’ll decide to ramp up the difficulty by following a bunch of different parts of the music at once, or suddenly switching to an instrument that has a bunch of rapid parts to it. It’s a bit jarring since it can happen at any point without warning. Some might appreciate breaking the pace for some difficulty since that promotes practicing the songs. Still, some might feel off-put and punished by the game suddenly blitzing you with a complicated pattern that you won’t know is there til it probably gets you killed.
This is frequently made harder by the camera that absolutely does not like to sit still. A circle at the edge of the screen might shift spontaneously when the camera gets displaced and either make you miss or lose track of where you are and wind up dead because you lost where the start of the next combo is. An easy way to remedy this would be to make the camera only move on the swipe commands, since you’re anticipating the character and camera to move on those actions anyways. Compound this with the fact that the positions of the inputs are semi-procedural and can wind up in vastly different spots play-to-play, and you can end up with either a simple feat or a chaotic mess that’s hard to fight through. I personally appreciate the semi-randomness, as it inspires you not to play until you get it right, but rather to practice until you can’t get it wrong. This can easily rub some players the wrong way, though, and I feel there should be a way to toggle if you want the game to spice things up this way, or keep things as static as possible, so you don’t die as much. Should you master a song and decide that you’re up for something harder, you can go full nightcore and double the song’s speed. Also, for those that might feel overwhelmed with all the stuff going on, there’s an option in the menu to darken the background when the intensity picks up, a welcome accessibility option for those that don’t want their eyeballs fried.
So this game has got some lethality issues to sort out as well. You can quickly get yourself killed mid-song with a lapse in attention. For better or worse, this game requires your utmost attention to make the combat thrilling and fulfilling. There’d be no shame at all to drop the difficulty to make it easier to enjoy, except there are no other difficulties except what’s there, meaning no practicing on a lower difficulty. The Arcade mode that’s just battles to the music for practice doesn’t even tell you that one song might be harder than another. There should’ve been a bit more thought put into a three-tier difficulty and a star rating system to let you know if one song might be harder than another. Another strange issue I noticed is where, in order to progress to later battles, you need to complete songs in a specific section, a section being four songs in a group. Thing is, it has to be the most recent section, or it doesn’t count. Whereas the other object you need is tokens, which can be gathered from any song of any section.
This makes it exceptionally difficult if you have a lot of difficulty with a certain boss’ pattern, since all of the Arcade songs tend to riff on the boss’ main pattern. So if that pattern’s a pain, that whole section becomes a pain. For example, the fight with Penumbra (the exact fight featured in the gif above) I found extremely difficult as that boss spams the circles in a quick-fire combo that, if you mess up one bit, it nine-times-out-of-ten will get you killed immediately when you try to catch up with the combo. I screwed up that boss’ pattern fairly frequently, which made getting to the next boss a pain. Yet, when I went up against the next boss, which was supposed to be harder, it wound up being so much easier as the combos were chopped up more between actions and had more diversity spacing things out. Things would be much easier if that section business was taken out. That way, if a player has an issue with one segment, they can rely on netting better scores on older songs since that’s a more reliable way to practice and get better.
Play it Hard
Moving on to the music, where this game’s got its shine on, from psytrance with thick rolling basslines to deep drumstep, there’s a plethora of powerful EDM to absorb in this game. For reference, I was using a pair of Sennheiser HD 598s and a Sound Blaster E5 for my audio equipment. The sound staging was well done for this game, the bass low and the treble clean, and that was before I’d even started messing with my EQ. The voices of A-Eye and Klang are kept to a layered, semi-static-y waveform that’s iconic without being grating since those sounds stick to the lower, quieter end of the spectrum. Probably the biggest comment I can make here, though, is that if you don’t like EDM all that much, you’re not gonna have a good time here. It’s almost all heavily focused on synth and bass. Those that dig that kind of stuff, however, will have quite a treat to look forward to. bLiNd, at the forefront of most of the soundtrack, didn’t miss a beat crafting a very wide, very aesthetic soundtrack that hits all notes with professionalism, with a few guest musicians like James Landino and City Girl helping spice up the setlist. I’m absolutely buying this soundtrack the moment it drops, and with the first game’s soundtrack being on Spotify, it’s likely going to wind up on there too. If you haven’t already, check out bLiNd‘s work to see if the sound’s up to your standards, just as a precaution if you’re interested in the game but never heard of the artist behind the game’s soundtrack.
As for SFX, the stuff that’s there when you hit an input are actually pretty easy on the ears and fit into the music smoothly. That said, there’s an option to mute it or make it louder on a whim. You can even tweak the dialogue voices, music offset if your inputs are feeling off, and a way to increase or mute how much the music gets distorted when you take damage. The level of accessibility here is very welcome for those that want to enjoy the game their way. I do wish there were separate volume sliders for bass, mid, and treble, admittedly, since some sound cards and headphones handle those ranges differently than others.
Keep On Moving
So what’s the verdict for this trip down the synthwave highway? As an avid EDM junkie, this is the sweetest treat for my eclectic earholes, and this review should prove that Klang 2 dares to grab that fated fruit of masterful rhythm combat. The aesthetic is eye-catching, a raver’s paradise with a perfect pitch of neon, Tron-lines, and vibrant special effects. While the story does more to present itself than the last game does, it misses a few notes in the depth department and needs a lesson or two in conciseness. Most importantly, though, the difficulty spikes can absolutely set back a casual player that can’t catch on to the combat. Fans of EDM should absolutely tune in for the soundtrack bLiNd put together for this, while rhythm game fans should approach with caution if they’re not much for electronic music or the bold color choices. For just $15, you’re getting a serious bang for your buck here.
Final Verdict 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Tinimations; Developer: Tinimations; Number of players: single-player (campaign); Released: October 20th, 2021; MSRP: $15
Full disclosure: The developer provided a review copy.