Review by Retro
"I miss New & Noteworthy"
Some people are just so desperate to get rich quick, even if it means stealing another person's idea. The makers of Klax seemed to have an intention of cashing in on the success of the puzzle game that took the world by a raging storm, Tetris. If I didn't know any better, I'd assume that they did a poor job of cloning Tetris and getting rich off of it, since I'm the first one to review Klax for the NES on this massive site.
But I do know better.
Klax isn't a direct clone of Tetris; you'll notice a similarity in the gameplay, but you'll see more differences. An item that looks much like a toaster is at your control. Below it is an empty, perfectly square container. Above the toaster is a huge, towering stationary-looking conveyor belt. Different-colored tiles tumble down from the top of the conveyor belt to the bottom, where your toaster awaits. Your job is to catch these tiles and place them in the naked container beneath you. Only 25 tiles can be held at one time in the container, but tiles never stop rolling on down the belt.
A klax is the matching of at least three tiles of the same color, horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Upon getting a klax, the tiles involved flash for a couple of seconds while the score (5000 points for a diagonal, for instance) is simultaneously shown, and then they disappear, freeing up space. You have to do a certain thing in each level, or wave. To kick things off, you'll just have to perform such feats as making three klaxes. But the going gets tough quickly. Before you know it, you'll have to do more complicated tasks, such as complete a few diagonals, catch 40 or more tiles, or obtain a certain number of points in order to progress to the next wave.
When you finish enough waves, you're taken back to the level select screen where you can choose to simply proceed to the very next wave, or bravely skip up to ten waves. You can actually start on level 11 if you think you're good enough to make it through the most difficult challenges (I'm usually not). The object of Klax sounds easy on paper, but in real life you'll find out it's not so. The tiles start off slowly in their journey down the screen, but their pace quickens the longer you take, and though you usually seem to get the right colored tile when you need it about 70% of the time, the 30% that it doesn't come on down can spell a game over in a heartbeat. Being able to make the tiles fall faster as if the conveyor belt was suddenly turned upside down can help cure your impatience in slower times, but the ability to toss caught tiles back up never seems to help in anything except making it tougher to catch every single one of them.
That's what ends a game of Klax. At the bottom of the conveyor belt you'll see the words ''drop meter.'' Right above those two haunting words are three (possibly more if you've made it far enough or changed it on the options menu) empty rectangles. When a tile gets past you, the toaster as I call it, a pretty lame scream will be heard and one of those rectangles will light up, bringing you closer to death. Once all of them are lit up, your game is over. Also, as mentioned before, only 25 tiles can be held in the container at one time. Once all 25 slots are full, you can only catch a few tiles before being trapped and done in by the weight of the tiles.
Klax can be a very engaging game to play, at the start. It's fun dropping the blocks one by one into the container below while forming a quick strategy in your head. You have two of the three orange tiles in place for a diagonal. Upon looking up, you see three tiles approaching; one is blue, one pink, and the topmost one is orange. You catch the blue and pink ones and drop them both on top of each other in the middle portion of the container, forming a sort of step for the approaching orange tile. Then you drop the orange one on top of those, successfully making an orange diagonal. That's what Klax is at heart—a simple, yet fun and somewhat addicting game.
However, even with unlimited continues, Klax proves to be a title that's pretty damn frustrating. I've learned that to have any chance to pass at least three levels consistently, it's best to start from the very beginning and to just have fun seeing how far you can get or how high of a score you can rack up. If you begin at level 6 or 11 from the start, you'll be having more anger than fun, with the insane challenges that are thrown your way. Or maybe it's just me; maybe I just suck at Klax.
Backgrounds that only change once in a blue moon from rather dull, unanimated things such as a spaceship with few overhead stars to a lifeless disco-looking floor don't help in lightening things up for the player in times of frustration. Your toaster and the tiles are of basic, unpolished quality as well, but the conveyor belts are pretty colorful and it's neat how you can see the colors of the approaching tiles while they're still seemingly miles away and how they grow in size as they get closer.
The sound effects, on the other hand, are pretty good. Each kind of klax has its own sound (even when you make a klax with four or more tiles), and the other sound effects, such as tiles tumbling down the conveyor belt, are usually fitting and well done. On default, no music is played in Klax. If you so choose, you can have music to play during the game, but I don't recommend it. The few tunes that are available aren't very good to begin with, but even worse, when played, they totally drain out the sound effects. You won't be able to hear the great sound of making a klax or even judge how many and how fast the tiles are falling by listening to them. No thanks!
Fortunately, two players can play simultaneously against one another in split-screen action! Playing with a friend is the most fun you'll ever have with Klax, even if it doesn't follow the mold of most other two-player games. Rather than competing to see who can complete the various challenges first, you both just play as you usually would in a one-player game. If one gets a couple of waves ahead of the other, then it's no big deal unless, of course, you're on the receiving end of the trash talking!
Klax would be a respectable title with just the one and two-player capability, but for an added bonus, Nintendo threw in a couple of nice additions. There's a neat little option where you can play drums by pressing three different buttons (on your controller) in any combination you like, for as long as you like. Best of all is a mini-game called Blob Ball. You can go solo or with a friend and move a K-shaped platform up and down on the right side of the screen as a slimy green ball bounces around the medium-sized boxed area. When the ball hits your platform, it simply bounces off of it to the opposite direction, a la Pong, but there is no opponent on the left to face. Behind your platform is a wall of spikes. Let the ball get past you and pierce the spikes and a distant scream will be heard, signifying a painful death, and then the action will just start all over. The memorable twist that makes Blob Ball worthy enough to be in the Mini-Game Hall of Fame is the fact that you can press or hold the button on your controller anytime to make the ball change pace and/or direction, unpredictably. You don't have a certain number of lives; it's just an entertaining game to play for a few minutes at your leisure.
That's another way one could describe Klax—a nice, low-key game that's always fun to play when you want to 'take a break.' It's not a classic like Tetris and perhaps the makers didn't get rich or win much praise over its success (or lack of), but it's certainly not a cartridge to spit and piss on. I've never had a love affair with Klax, but I'll stand my ground and tell you that it's a title worthy enough to be in your NES collection if you're at least a minor fan of puzzle games that are kin to Tetris.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/07/04
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