Rhythm-based games clearly peaked with the excellent Rock Band series a few years back. The mixture of ‘realistic’ instruments and banging soundtracks made it a massive hit at parties or with more musically minded players. While that and Guitar Hero might have waned somewhat since, there’s no doubt still a desire for rhythmically challenging titles out there. From Thumper to Rez and Tetris Effect, more and more the games are letting the gameplay do the talking without the need for expensive peripherals. It’s in this vein that we get to Klang 2 today: it might not live up to some of the titles listed above, but what’s here is a fun and challenging rhythm title.
Challenging is putting it lightly. Once we’re past the first few songs the difficulty ramps up immensely. From the pretty easy going Endless and Artificial to Sunburn, you’d be forgiven for feeling like this’ll be a breeze (especially as Ratalaika Games are attached as publisher, known for their easy completion and achievement releases). Get to All My though, and you will be – as I was – in for a rude awakening. The pace ups quickly, the inputs required follow suit, and it’s not long before we’re listening to the same first minute of the song more times in a row than we’d perhaps like to. The challenge is fun mind, and I did get a lot of satisfaction from hitting a long combo streak and finally beating a track.
In terms of how we interact with the music, it’s a pretty simple affair. Our character is situated in the middle of the screen. One of several different note types will flash up on screen one after the other and we need to hit them by aiming with the analogue stick and hitting X in time with the music to continue. The note types take the form of a circle that shrinks onto another circle, with the ideal time to hit when they overlap precisely; an arrow that requires us to hold the stick in a certain direction before hitting the button as the arrows overlap; and a blue diamond shape that also requires a hit when the shapes overlap, but here we have to hold the button down for a period of time. As I say, pretty simple on paper.
The tricky bit is when all three of these are being thrown at us in quick – and randomly generated – order. You see, while our character starts in the centre of the screen, in the process of the song they jump about the place, moving from left to right and up and down. Due to the need to accurately aim in the right direction of the music notes that appear on screen, it can be quite challenging to juggle watching where the character is, where the notes are coming from and what type they are, and listen to the music in hopes of following the rhythm. Again, it’s mostly a fun challenge though, and luckily most of the songs are decent (if you like techno/house/dub-step style).
I say mostly as there are a few songs I’ve seen where the notes to play on screen don’t feel like they line up with anything being played audibly. Surf was a big issue for me, where the music playing in the intro minute or so never felt like it lined up with what I was inputting. I’m very much a rhythm and audio guy when it comes to these games, and so only really glance at the visuals to see what the gist of the inputs will be. With Surf though I was forced to try and play by watching rather than listening, and the gameplay lost a lot of its spark. Some other songs are just crazy hard. Third ‘Boss’ battle Chronicle is an exercise in patience and repetition and the beats come thick and fast with hardly any let up in the 3min 14sec’s it lasts. I did enjoy the challenge once more, but there’s no denying that failing at the 2min30 mark over and over was grating, especially for some others that take a while to get going too.
In Klang 2’s defence, the audio/visual latency seems well managed, with no calibration needed and inputs registering in a timely manner. Even when there’s a lot going on the screen never feels to cluttered or overbearing either. The stark red flash when we miss a note is jarring, but it’s no different to hearing a bum note on Rock Band for messing up my flow.
There’s a sci-fi tales going on here which I presume follows on from Klang (though I’ve never played it), but it is clearly playing second fiddle to the music, and rightly so. Hell, there’s even an option to turn off all non-essential dialogue and cut scenes – something I took the game up on pretty soon after starting.
Rhythm game players should find a lot to enjoy with Klang 2. The music is decent, the way we play along is simple yet very, very challenging, and the incentive to go back and beat a high score is definitely there in order to unlock more songs. Some of the random generation of the inputs can make things tough at times, and there are definitely difficulty spikes that will frustrate, but overall I had a good time with Klang 2.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.