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It's not often that a platform game comes close to replicating the perfect sauce of Nintendo's stalwarts like Super Mario 64 or Mario Galaxy. But Klonoa exuded a charm and spirit that exceeded anything else we've played on the Wii. From the moment the large-eared hero appeared on the screen my son was immediately hooked and instead of baulking at the cute art style, I found it charming and immensely playable.
What we found most appealing about Klonoa was it's simple mechanics and style. This was a game that was so appealing to my son, taking him away from the usual Mario games and planting him deep into a completely new world and its characters.
The cat-like Klonoa and his helpful sidekick Hewpoe are never irritating or annoying. Which considering their fluffy exterior was what myself and my other half feared when we first started playing the game. But looks can be deceiving and once we'd turned the speech back to its original, Playstation version, the characters own personality started to come out.
As my son worked his way through the easy first few levels it became clear that this was just as accessible as the Mario games - but without the steep difficulty level that I've found can hinder his progress.
As my son worked his way through the easy first few levels it became clear that this was just as accessible as the Mario games - but without the steep difficulty level that I've found can hinder his progress. In fact this became the very first game he could complete most of the levels on his own without my intervention. That's not to say Klonoa has a lot of simple, point A to Point B level design going on. Most of the levels we played had a few neat 3D paths that gave the game a subtle complexity that never proved too much to cope with but made the journey through them very rewarding.
Navigating a 3D labyrinth like this was completely unique to all of us because it worked so well. The 360 degree world of Mario Galaxy was awesome to us at first but the accessibility of Klonoa trumps that experience completely. It's a lot easy than Mario's latest excursion but no less charming and magical. The ability to interact with the world made it all the more entertaining as well. Some of these 3D effects are just clever eye-candy but mixing this with the branching structure of some of the levels makes Klonoa so special.
What also sets it apart from other similar platformers is the ability to pick up and throw the enemies. Not only is it fun, causing shrieks of laughter all around, but it helps to carve a path through other baddies if needed and also enables the double-jump - essential for getting to the higher sections where any collectibles might be hiding.
The oddest part of Klonoa is its story. It's a quite a dark and foreboding tale that sits completely at odds with the colourful environments of its world. This went straight over my son's head who's most compelling narrative so far has involved the rescuing of princesses from castles or the collection of Pokemon's.
And that's Klonoa's magic. It appeals at first glance to anyone who knows how to hold a controller and my son wouldn't put it down until it had been completed.
To be honest it doesn't sit comfortably with the rest of the game and I found it confusing most of the time, unsure of who was doing what and why. But the very fact something meatier is hidden behind the flashy visuals gives it an unusual depth I appreciated, even if the rest of my family didn't get it at all. And that's Klonoa's magic. It appeals at first glance to anyone who knows how to hold a controller and my son wouldn't put it down until it had been completed. But it also appealed to me as its cute look hid a deeper story, even if that narrative was a little disappointing and never really got going.
What finally sealed the deal was Klonoa's length. Finishing off the game in 5-6 hours is likely to enrage the hardcore gamers and the Nintendo fanboys. But finding a game that is accessible enough for my son to get to grips with and short enough that we can all experience fully, as a family, is incredibly rare. But Klonoa was that special game and in the space of a week we had a better experience completing it than Mario Galaxy or Sonic Unleashed.
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