“It is the nineties and there is always time for…KLAX!” promises the intro screen. What follows is a blast of percussion-laden music that announces this is not your typical puzzle game. Indeed, KLAX is a puzzle game with a twist. Tengen’s latest NES game sees a unique take on the puzzle genre based on the arcade game of the same name.
Players are greeted with three options at the title screen: Play, Options, and Stuff. Play takes you straight to the game. Options allows adjustments to difficulty settings, music, sound effects, and a part of gameplay called ramping. The third option (Stuff) takes you to a drum test, a sound test, and a bizarre single player game bearing similarity to PONG called “Blob Ball.” Blob Ball is an interesting diversion—the player controls a thruster-powered platform that has to hit a floating green blob away from the spiked wall it protects (hey, I told you it’s a weird minigame)—but ultimately isn’t much fun after a few minutes of play.
In the main game of KLAX, the player attempts to stack colored rectangles atop one another to create the “klaxes” of the title. Getting three tiles of the same color in a row, column, or diagonally triggers the KLAX, causing the tiles to disappear.
Amid the backdrop of a sparse starscape, the main action takes places in a little rectangle at the bottom of the screen with thrusters on either side. It’s supposed to be a spaceship. The tiles fall down a ramp that sits just above the play area, allowing the player to see the incoming pieces. You control a platform that picks up each tile. Tiles can be dropped into the rectangular playing field or stacked on the little platform so the player can decide where they are dropped.
This has a strategic advantage that allows for more flexibility with creating KLAXes on the playing field, but the platform can only hold up to five pieces. If a piece is not caught by the platform, it will damage the spaceship. Three hits and it’s game over. The game continues in similar fashion, with the game providing hints and varying the conditions for clearing a stage (i.e. all KLAXes can only be achieved diagonally and so on). It gets repetitive after a while and is probably best played in short bursts when you’re in the mood for puzzle games.
Graphics are colorful, but a little rough around the edges. The colors verge on pastel, which can create a disorienting feeling after a few minutes. The audio is predominantly percussion, which on the NES is hit or miss. It can be annoying at the best of times, but some of the themes played throughout are well-composed and fit the game well. The title screen music is some of the best in the game, both catchy and memorable.
The game has varying difficulty (players can change it to a lower setting before playing), but even at that, KLAX is challenging. At higher difficulties, the game picks up quickly and never lets up. It’s fun for those who enjoy that style, but it could be a deterrent for casual players. Ultimately, KLAX is a mediocre puzzle game with a bit of a difficulty curve that is probably better left to arcades. One of the best features is that you can play against another player, but that’s not enough to elevate this game to greatness.
- Graphics - 4/104/10
- Sound - 4/104/10
- Gameplay - 5/105/10
- Lasting Appeal - 5/105/10
Final Thoughts: MEDIOCRE
KLAX is a reasonably fun puzzle game with some cool add-ons…but Tetris is probably a better bet for most players. The two-player mode should appeal to many out there as there’s not many puzzle games that support that feature.
Based in Colorado, David Buck is an author, musician, and media specialist. In his spare time, he composes music, writes science fiction, and builds scale models, mostly starships and movie cars.