Klang 2 is a psychedelic rhythm-action game, blindly pursuing full immersion with dance music through high-speed combat
- Developer: Tinimations, Ratalaika Games (for consoles)
- Publisher: Tinimations, Ratalaika Games
- Release date: 20th October 2021
- Genre: Rhythm action
- Platforms: PC (Xbox One, PS4, Switch coming soon)
- Reviewed on: PC (Steam): R9-5900HX, RTX 3080, 32GB RAM
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Klang 2 Review
All of the gameplay, design and development of Klang 2, apart from the soundtrack, is the work of just one person. I always find this impressive from a technical standpoint, but it also allows some of the most unique concepts and gameplay ideas to be made without being diluted down or changed to fit an agenda.
Klang 2 is a musical rhythm game, but with the shiny veneer of a 2D action game. It’s even got a surprisingly engaging story accompanying it. It’s possible to not only ignore but completely disable the story and A-Eye sections, which is handy for second playthroughs or for those who just want to get into the music, but I actually quite enjoyed it. The story does assume you have knowledge of the first game, but there’s an encyclopedia that gives you enough of an understanding to get up to speed, and it’s not so high-brow or complex as to not work as a standalone experience.
The aesthetic of Klang 2 is neon-rich and minimalist, and perfectly matches the synthwave, dubstep and trance vibe of the EDM soundtrack. Each section and boss battle has unique environments and intense action going on, but in my experience, I found I was so engrossed in scanning for the next target that I barely noticed what was going on in the background. At some points, I found there was almost too much going on, and I found it hard to keep track of the targets amidst the chaos going on around the screen.
The developer has cleverly colour coded a lot of the elements, and that makes Klang very intuitive to play. The accuracy of your fire attack timings is reflected by the colour and intensity of the attack, and things like your health, projected score and duration of the song remaining can be ascertained with a quick glance. This is pretty essential, especially in the later levels where you’re stringing together complex and rapidly changing combos.
Timing is everything in Klang 2. Scoring is based on how close to perfect your timing is, and higher scores will earn you better ranks and more points towards unlocking boss battles and new songs. The story mode is divided into sections, which are groups of four songs culminating in boss battles. The various enemies you face in each section utilise attack patterns that reflect those of the boss you will face, so if you are struggling against a boss, replaying the songs of its section can help you become familiar with the patterns.
Compared to something like Guitar Hero, Klang 2 looks deceptively simple. There are three types of targets: Circles (fire attacks) need to be aimed towards relative to Klang’s position and require a single press, Squares (lightning hold attacks) must also be aimed directly at and require you to press and hold, and Triangles (dashing) are a directional input regardless of Klang’s position. At first, the circular and square targets remain mostly static, but as you progress you’ll need to track not only the position of the targets but also Klang’s position on the screen, as your aim point is constantly changing.
It’s the dashes that make Klang 2 so challenging. Often the dash can be performed either horizontally or diagonally, which in turn changes the locations of the next target. This means you can’t just rely on constantly practising a section and memorising the movements to get past it. This difficulty is compounded by Klang 2 frequently switching which instrument’s beat or rhythm you need to follow, and can change ad hoc between the various synths and percussion without warning. Having an option to listen to the tracks beforehand would help, especially for those songs that switch from four on the floor to a dubstep breakbeat at the drop.
I struggled on a couple of later sections, as they involved complicated sequences of repeated presses and rapidly shifting targets with irregular timing. Coupled with enemies that were flashing around the screen attacking me and some intense visual flourishes, it made it very hard to see what was going on and I kept failing at the same point. After about ten retries of the same song, I dipped into the settings to see if there was a slowed down training mode or an easy setting to practice with.
It turns out that there is no difficulty setting on Klang 2 (apart from turbo mode, which plays the songs in double time and is way, way harder). Fortunately, Klang 2 has assists and options that can help you out. A scalable Dark Assist can be enabled, which darkens the background and helps you focus on hitting the targets, and it was this that helped me get through the hardest to learn sections. Even when I’d learned the basic patterns and understood the tempo changes and rhythm of the songs, I still preferred playing with dark mode switched on, as I found Klang 2 visually overwhelming and stressful in full effect.
There are also options for gamepads that allows you to lock to targets after the initial lining up has been done, or that completely remove the need to aim. For keyboard and mouse gamers, you can swap the mouse swipes for dashing with WASD or arrow key inputs, too. These tweaks work OK in lieu of a straight-up difficulty setting, but without an easy mode, it was far too difficult for my kids to get to grips with.
Although the assists and visual adjustments can make it somewhat easier on the eyes, the singular most important setting (depending on your setup) is the audio offset. I played Klang 2 on a couple of different PCs, with a mixture of Bluetooth speakers, wired and wireless headsets, and with the sound routed through HDMI and DP connections. Unsurprisingly, they all had differing levels of latency, with the Bluetooth headphones coming in with a whopping 183 ms.
You may not notice at first, as you can accurately hit the button simply going off the visual cues. Pretty quickly, though, the intensity and complexity of the targets increases, and you’ll need to be looking one step ahead. If the audio is out, especially by the huge margin of my Bluetooth headphones, you’ll find it very hard to get your timing down. By changing the music offset (some trial and error may be required), you can perfectly sync the audio so you can push the inputs in time with the music and focus on where the next target pops up.
Once I got everything set just right I had huge amounts of fun with Klang 2. I’m a persistent gamer, so I relished the challenge of trying to nail all of the 24 songs and going for S ranks. It goes without saying, though, that if you really can’t stand EDM then this isn’t the game for you. For fans of the genre, however, the soundtrack is excellent. There are loads of tracks from producer bLiNd, as well as additional songs from Steven Silo, James Landino, Nhato and many more. I’ll admit to not having heard of any of these producers before, but such is the quality of music I’ll be searching out their other tunes post haste. The soundtrack for Klang was made available as a standalone release, so hopefully, Klang 2 will get the same treatment.
When you begin to master it, Klang 2 is unbelievably engrossing. Your eyes will be darting around the screen scouting the next target as you enter a kind of zen-like trance, and the amazing quality of the soundtrack plays into this superbly well. The way that the patterns can change from turn to turn is refreshing, as it makes mastery more dependant on skill than your ability to memorise the buttons, but it can lead to intense frustration when you are struggling to work out your timing. Stick with it, though, and Klang 2 is a very rewarding experience. If you’re a fan of rhythm action games, EDM, or both, then Klang 2 is well worth picking up.