Even as gaming culture becomes more and more tied to the world of music (bringing us annual celebrations like MAGfest and touring acts like Video Games Live), a game’s soundtrack is still a very special thing when incorporated as more than a backdrop or blanketing force. Klang, developed by the one-man operation at Tinimations and scored by famed electronic dance music artist bLiNd, capitalizes on this and then some. Every second of frenetic action and inch of its environment is soaked with pulse-pounding music, making it one of the most promising rhythm action games in years.
In Klang, players fill the cybergoth-inspired shoes of an elite rave warrior. If that combination of words sounds weird to you, buckle up. After crashing a rave party hosted by the cruel Soundlord Sonus, the rave warrior must fight for his freedom against the malicious titan and his loyal, audio-bending army. Imagine if instead of vengeful rage, God of War’s Kratos fueled himself on infectious rhythm – and maybe some illicit drugs – and you’ve got Klang.
What follows is an ever-increasing drive of frantically paced combat and platforming, all dictated by and perfectly synched to bLiNd’s aggressive soundtrack. Meters on all sides of the main character fill up, teaching you when to strike just as a note is sharply punctuated, deflecting enemy attacks with your tuning fork blades (yeah) and emitting a powerful blast back at them. Leaping from wall to wall to clamber up a narrow passage locks you in perfect rhythm with the underlying beat, a heady thud-thud-thud that every electronic music fan knows all too well. It goes a long way in both ramping up the intensity of a particularly confrontational boss or just teaching a player how to deal with a new attack. Every EDM fan lives for the “beat drop,” and Klang works a pure sense of magic into how well this crescendo fits into its demanding combat. Whereas a more retro-inspired game might default to a traditional chiptune soundtrack, the fact that Klang’s identity is so wrapped up in its own musical style (not an exclusive one, but certainly never grasped onto with such strength) makes every moment a thrilling one.
It would be enough if Klang’s world were only so infused with such great audio, but developer Tom-Ivar Arntzen also builds an aesthetic that’s as much Tron: Legacy as it is European warehouse rave. Attacks from certain enemies shoot out in the form of an equalizer wave, combat stages look like the mosh pit at a concert, platforming sections look almost like sheet music, with streetlights built to look like clef notes. So far as we know, all of Klang’s narrative is communicated without dialogue, emphasizing the importance of this music-infused world and the craziness that goes on in it.
Klang is expected to release before the end of 2016 on Steam for PC, featuring two to four hours of gameplay and music from bLiNd. A “Nightcore” mode (don’t google that) will also be available to challenge players looking for an even tougher challenge.
Edited by Joseph Knoop