I haven't played many platformers in the last few years, and I've finished even less of them, so after a flood of RPGs and fighting games, I approached 2001 with the intention of broadening my horizons. I bought Perfect Dark (my first first-person shooter), came to like Gran Turismo 3, and eventually purchased a "kiddie game" with a cat-like dude on the cover. I thought I was in for a small diversion, but it ended up being one of my favorite games.

The story begins with Klonoa "awakening" on a stormy beach in one of his dream-worlds, where an apprentice priestess seeking a mystical bell begs for his help. It is soon revealed that someone wants to ring four different bells to bring sorrow to the land, and it's up to Klonoa to stop them. Revealing more than that would spoil the plot, but it should be mentioned that the story's development takes a surprising twist halfway through the game--it was enough to make me wonder whether this was really a kiddie game after all.

The plot has two levels of interpretation: one, a fairy-tale for children, and another level which can be comprehended by grown ups, and which acts as a metaphor for the reality of the world. The last few levels even pack quite an emotional punch if you're willing to look past the childlike qualities that the game possesses.

Klonoa 2 plays like a run-of-the-mill platformer, and a rather easy one as well. Its difficulty level is a bit deceiving. Much like Mario 64, if you want to get everything, then you have to sweat and swear. A lot. Our fluffy eared pal Klonoa can jump, hover with his ear-wings, and perform useless tricks with the shoulder buttons.

He also has a ring that shoots "wind bullets," which can be used to activate triggers, hang on to moving hooks and balloon and, most importantly, capture an enemy and send it rotating over his head in a seeming state of unconsciousness. Here lies the meat of Klonoa's gameplay: captured enemies can be thrown or used to double jump (by stepping on them), and different enemies have different properties. The Moos--red, ball like bunnies--are the most basic enemy and do little more than impact damage, although they come in various forms, which affect their ability to be stunned. Jetimo's are used much like lifts; Kitons work as helicopters but pop after a while; Bomies explode after some time and come in different types as well; Erbils are used for super jumps and more; and the little suckers called Likuri serve a purpose that shouldn't be spoiled, but upon which Klonoa's most difficult puzzles depend.

A number of devices are usable as well, such as cannons that send you to another area or into the background and springs that do what springs have done since the dawn of time. Klonoa has three goals in each stage: completing the stage itself, which moves the story forward, collecting Momett dolls (1 per level, split in 6 collectable stars) and collecting the maximum amount of dream stones, which is almost impossible but earns you extra artwork and the pride of being a Klonoa 2 master.

Klonoa isn't confined to the usual level format of most platformers--he also takes more than one foray into the world of slides and boarding. Quite a few levels are based upon this concept, which is new for Klonoa games. In these levels, back-tracking to get missed items is not an option, as you're continuously moving forward on your yellow board, hopping over gaping chasms and trying to collect all good stuff (conveniently located in the most dangerous locations). Criticism about the board levels is not uncommon, but it should be mentioned that one of them has the best musical piece in the game, while another has some of the best scenery.

Stages can be revisited at any time, as Klonoa moves about locations on a Mario World style map. The game contains 16 levels and at least 2 bonus levels, some of which are modified versions of previous levels. Five levels are revisited twice, although they're difficult to recognize the second time around.

One of Klonoa 2's major flaws is that the levels start out fairly standard (albeit not dull), with a funfair level, a jungle level, and a city level all appearing before half-time--not exactly the most original level designs. It is from the seventh level onwards that Klonoa dramatically improves the gameplay and the looks of levels, the last of, which are absolutely stunning.

The difficulty level rises steeply, but those with sub-par reflexes need not fear: with a second controller, someone else can control Popka the mole and save your butt if you miss that very difficult jump, making the game enjoyable by all.

Klonoa 2 is one of the most beautiful PS2 games available, making excellent use of cel-shading that features almost no blocky or jagged edges. That may not seem an impressive feat, considering the relatively fixed 2D-like camera, but the fully 3D snowboarding levels are a fine example of the true power of the graphics engine. The scenery flies by without a hint of slowdown and everything looks just as crisp as the side scrolling levels.

As far as design goes, Klonoa 2 does a very good job in the rehashed levels, and an amazing job in all the others. The world of Klonoa rarely stands still with crashing waves, battles and puffing, rattling steam machinery all featured with-in the game's backgrounds. Use of colors and animation is excellent and this game really must be seen in action

Despite it's amazing visuals, Klonoa 2 is, even more so, a game to be listened to. The tunes are quite good and always fit the action. One level in particular, Mountains of Mira Mira, has a musical worthy of being hummed aloud; it's utter gibberish, but immensely fun.

The game also contains voice acting, which can be easily mistaken for untranslated Japanese. That sentiment is an incorrect one. Characters in Klonoa 2 speak a language all their own. It's nothing more than gibberish, but the voice actors did such a good job that it's never annoying.

A couple of negative things about the game should be addressed the first of which being that it's rather short. Itís 16 levels last about 15 hours, not counting the extra time you're willing to put into getting all Momett dolls and dream stones. Unfortunately, once you've completed the game, you probably won't be coming back for quite some time. Also, the level design for the first half of the game is a bit uninspired, especially when compared to the gameís second half.

Despite itís flaws, Klonoa 2 is still one of the best platformers to come out in the past few years. With its layered story, excellent graphics, and enjoyable music, itís definitely worth at least a rent.

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Klonoa 2

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Playstation 2


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