developed by Klonoa Works/published by Namco/2001.08.30
1 Player/Cartridge (3 save slots)/Nintendo Gameboy Advance
Sporting ridiculously long ears and a Pac-Man pin in his cap, Klonoa was one of 32-bit’s original heroes, starring in a 2.5D puzzle-platformer with an oldschool vibe. Klonoa’s charm lies not only in its colorful setting or the cute and cuddly inhabitants of Phantomile, but in the grab-and-shoot game play that feels slightly reminiscent of the similarly named Kirby’s Dreamland. It is therefore somewhat disappointing that Klonoa has appeared in only a small handful of titles, 3 of which are for the Gameboy Advance (Empire of Dreams, Dreamchamp Tournament, and the Japan-only action-RPG spinoff Klonoa Heroes).
The Emperor of Dreams has decided that only he should be allowed to dream, and the world falls into chaos. Normal citizens who’s dreams are to become a worldclass chef or a champion boxer become transfigured by their nightmares, and only Klonoa can save the day. The story is pretty basic, presented with minimal animation in full screen slideshows, but it is more than what you would get in a Mario game. Unfortunately, secondary characters tend to look like they were hastily drawn and don’t really fit in with the established Klonoa universe.
When it comes to game play, there’s plenty to separate Klonoa from the pack of character-based platformers. The basic game design calls for Klonoa to grab an enemy, which can then be thrown at other enemies to dispatch them, or used as a kind of launchpad for a double jump. As such enemies are not simply there to damage Klonoa’s chances, but are actually tools with which players can solve the many problems they’ll encounter.
The doublejump mechanism is at the heart of many of the game’s puzzles, as are the many different kinds of enemies and blocks which can be manipulated to open blocked passages, trigger switches, push buttons, or grab keys that are just out of reach. The underlying goal of each stage is to find three stars which will open the end-of-stage door, bringing Klonoa one step closer to solving his quest. For an added challenge, players can attempt to collect all of the gems in a stage (ranging between 30 and 100), which will open up some extra stages at the end of the game designed for Klonoa pros.
The game’s rocksteady design is complemented by a learning curve that gradually introduces new game play elements, allowing for more complex puzzles to solve. The designers show off an impressive range of puzzles along the way, and while they can be frustrating at times, it’s hard not to enjoy their cleverness. Mixing up the action are familiar Boss stages, which feature fun pattern recognition challenges, as well as a variety of classic Mario-esque non-stop stages that push the player to keep moving in time with the screen. The latter of which will test even the best player’s mettle to collect all 100 gems before the stage ends!
While the game is colorful and Klonoa’s sprite animates well enough, everything in the game is quite tiny and backgrounds lack detail. There’s very little variety in enemies and objects throughout the game, and the music and sound effects aren’t as catchy as you might expect. While it lacks visual punch, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams remains one of the better platformers on the GBA due to its near-perfect level design, presenting an interesting and unique mixture of puzzle-solving and platforming gameplay.
Quick Run Down
- Smooth difficulty curve
- Thoughtful level design
- Lots of levels
- Presentation is a bit simple/bland
One Sentence Review: An original puzzle-platformer with level designs that go beyond those of its predecessor.
One Word Review: Rewarding.