Klaus' intelligent colour palette is put at odds with generic mechanics. This faulty combination sucks life from an otherwise terrific title. The narrative begins as a stolid commentary on contemporary corporate culture and evolves into a tale of personal triumph, woe, and redemption.
Developer, La Cosa Entertainment, showcased the game in 2013 to much acclaim. The title's concept art bode well for the studio's inaugural release. Fast-forward three years and we find an incredible looking game in need of mechanical dimension. Super Meat Boy proved that the platformer formula needed a facelift. The result was a mature title worthy of all of the praise that it received. Some levels in Klaus seem inspired by Team Meat's initial foray into the world of gaming but, unfortunately, do not bring anything new to the table.
Cue the spike wheels.
Klaus' levels are stained with corporate vibes, especially the ones that take place in what appear to be office basements. In the game's first scene we find our hero asleep almost as if to say all corporate folk abide by a similar platitude. Gameplay mechanics are spelled out in a fashion no different than those used in conventional advertising, colours contributing to a posh, sanitised aesthetic.
The commentary comes on strong, punctuated by words sprayed on level walls like neon. They add character to the lush environs and serve the purpose of pointing you in the right direction. The speaker's voice is reminiscent of Glados from Portal, taking stabs at irony when fit.
K1, a brute that you encounter, provides dimension to the facile exterior of the main character. K1 is an exaggerated form of ourselves – all brawn and no brains. You use him to bust obstacles and get tossed up to high ledges. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to discern these platforms from the background, and so the stunning looks sometimes come at a cost to gameplay.
Once you get the hang of things, though, there are few instances where you'll experience monumental challenge or resistance. Klaus is a slow burn, almost to its own detriment. Being babied for the first two to four hours seems pleasant in theory but is tedious in practice. New concepts are explained in full with no room for misinterpretation, and problems arise when easy concepts take too long to develop into challenging ones. The title would have benefitted from greater escalation in difficulty. The option for unlimited lives is handicap enough, must gameplay also be stunted in this capacity?
Like most indie titles, one of Klaus' strengths comes in the form of music. If the infographic-inspired motifs are not commentary enough, music puts the nail in the head. To say the beats are fitting does not do them justice: techno complements the industrial atmosphere perfectly. There is also the suggestion that you're not intended to find these sounds all that enjoyable. This is because they resemble elevator music. That's right, observations on the plight of the cubicle worker are stitched into the very sounds that you hear as you scale walls and platforms.
Klaus is a good game that takes too long to become so. The commentary baked into its narrative bleeds into the gameplay resulting in mechanics that are not provided enough nourishment to grow and an exposition that will lose many due to its over-commitment to delivering a message. The initial impression leaves a bad taste, and in a world where first impressions matter, this is difficult to overlook.