The rise and fall of Guitar Hero and Rock Band left a huge gap in the rhythm genre, leaving the indie scene to fill it with its own ideas. Over the years we’ve seen standout titles such as Thumper, Beat Saber and Crypt of the NecroDancer. I’m pleased to say, Klang 2 joins those ranks.
Klang 2, for the most part, is a familiar experience. Combining tightly controlled combat to deceitfully simplistic looking rhythm gameplay. While it likely won’t blow you away mechanically, it does provide a sense of euphoria like no other, with its satisfying gameplay loop and presentational spectacle.
The first thing we need to talk about is the soundtrack, obviously. Featuring a wide variety of EDM tracks by various artists such as bLiNd, Taishi, cYsmix and more, each song effortlessly transports you into a trance-like state as you use the beat to time your next moves. Everything feels as if it belongs, and I only have the highest of praise to give, likening it to my experience with the wonderful Tetris Effect.
You play as Klang, an elite rave-warrior, wielding a cursed Tuneblade to absorb the spirits of his enemies to free himself from Soundlord Sonus, under instruction from A-Eye. If this all sounds absurd to you, you’re not alone.
Something we don’t see often in the genre is an emphasis on story and that’s usually for the best, there’s only so many times we can play out our ‘rags to riches’ rockstar fantasy and while I applaud Tinimations for attempting to hook the player into an original sci-fi world, the narrative is far too ‘out there’ to be consistently followed and would almost definitely baffle newcomers. Though I will give credit for including a surprising amount of lore through the game’s codex and optional conversations with A-Eye. Thankfully, you have the option to turn off story elements entirely to focus on the gameplay which I recommend as they become wearisome after a while.
The visuals complement the tone of the game wonderfully and I applaud Tinimations for pulling it off so well. The sullen cyberpunk backdrops allow the effects and feedback to vividly pop, giving the player clear telegraphing of the next beat and a rushing sense of momentum that kicks in during the more difficult sections.
On the gameplay side, Klang 2 mostly succeeds by ditching player movement and only having you focusing on your omnidirectional aiming and timing skills to earn the highest rank in semi-randomised levels.
In its simplest form, you use the left stick to aim Klang in the correct direction, relative to his position, and use the X button to perfectly execute one of three attacks to the beat, followed by your performance rank. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. Though only having three forms of attacks, each requiring different inputs, you’ll be chaining them together under increasing pressure and new patterns to earn enough tokens to unlock the next boss, miss enough notes and you’ll have to restart the level in its entirety, leading me to my only real complaint.
This is a punishing game by design, but the progression of difficulty seems completely random to a slightly obnoxious degree with huge difficulty spikes coming at you without warning. The game is split into five sections with a boss level separating each one. Much like the older Guitar Hero games – five songs, boss, five songs, boss etc. – but those games had a structure when it came to difficulty. You start on the easy songs with the harder ones becoming available as you progress. Klang, however, mixes them up completely, with no way of differentiating between them beforehand since the game lacks any form of difficulty indication.
Adding to this issue, missing a single beat can cause you to fail a level because the camera is constantly shifting with each beat leading to Klang getting lost in the barrage of incoming notes from every direction, making it exceedingly difficult to save yourself in time. While certainly not a deal breaker, it made my experience a little frustrating since I had to restart the whole song from the beginning.
In the performance department, Klang is polished to a shine. I experienced no frame drops or stutters but did have a couple of instances where achievements wouldn’t pop during my four to five hours with it. Controls were as tight and responsive as you could possibly want in a game like this, becoming especially appreciated during the unlockable ‘fast’ mode. High fives all round.
Overall, Klang 2 is a very solid entry in what has become a niche genre in the past couple of console generations. Tinimations has done a wonderful job of building a more tightly tuned follow-up complete with a hard-hitting soundtrack.
Klang 2 is available for download from the Xbox Store