Game Review: Klax

Klax Title Screen

  • Publisher: Tengen
  • Developer: Tengen
  • Released: 1990
  • Game Type: Arcade
  • Players: 1 or 2 [Sim]
  • Product Number: Unlicensed
  • Rarity: B+ (Very Rare)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 9

    Box Scan
    Klax Screen 1 Klax Screen 2

    This game is a port of an Atari coin-op that was released in 1989 as a follow-up to Tetris. Once Tetris hit the arcade scene it was a massive hit, so Atari followed it up with this game, which featured a similar yet different gameplay style, along with some cool sound effects and even a nice catchphrase, "It is the ninties and there is time for Klax." While it wasn't as successful as the Russian puzzler, it still did well enough to garner a following and it was brought to just about every console and handheld system. The NES was not left out as they received an unlicensed port from Tengen. While it may not be the most technically advanced port, it's stilla good conversion and is a good puzzle game as well.

    This game features 100 levels, or "waves". The gameplay is pretty simple. You're situated at the bottom of a conveyor belt, and tiles of different colors are constantly tumbling toward you. Your job is to use your paddle to catch the tiles before they fall off the bottom and dump them into the container bin below you. Your paddle can only hold up to five titles at a time, but you have the ability to flip the tile back onto the conveyor belt if you need some breathing room. To score points you must arrange the titles so that three or more tiles of the same color line up horizontaly, vertically or diagonally. That makes a Klax, which disappears from the bin after you get the points, making room for more tiles. You can also arrange the titles so you cause chain reactions and double klaxes for lots of bonus points. You basically keep making klaxes until you pass the level or lose the game. Each wave has one of five different requirements to progress. The most common is getting a certain amount of klaxes, but some require you to score enough points, or survive a number of tiles, or getting a number of horizontals and diagonals. Once you fulfill the requirement, you get bonus points based on the number of tiles still on the paddle and any empty spaces in the bin. However as you play through each wave, the tiles start coming down at you in greater numbers. Every tile you fail to catch gets dropped off the ramp, and you're only allowed a certain amount of drops, which is tracked by the Drop Meter on the screen. If you exceed the drop meter, the game ends.

    There are some intersting features in the game. Before you begin you have an Option where you can change the game settings, including difficulty and whether or not the difficulty ramps up. When you start the game and after every fifth wave, you're given to option of going to the next level or jumping several stages ahead. Going straight to the higher levels gives you a longer drop meter but also throws you to the difficult stuff faster. Also two players can play at the same time with a split-screen, but there's no interaction between them; it's two independent games going on at the same time. Also Tengen included a few bonus features in the Stuff menu. There's a sound test, a drum test, an even a mini-game called Blob Ball, where you use a paddle to keep a green ball from falling into spikes. It has nothing to do with Klax whatsoever, but it is a fun little extra.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics aren't the greatest but are still good enough for a puzzle game. This game uses several different backgrounds to give some variety to each wave, and most of them look decent, though the forest scene is oddly colored. The colored tiles are nice and have decent animation but again are nothing special.

    As far as the sounds go, some of the zany sound effects from the arcade original made it over to the NES. Each tile color makes a different sound as it's coming down the ramp, though some colors share the same sound. You still get the "Oooh!" and "Yeah!" sounds when you make matches of four or five titles, which are slightly muffled but still audible, as well as the funny "Wauugh!" when a tile goes over. There are some glaring submissions, such as the "Awwww" when you lose, or the "golf clap" when you clear a stage, but the sounds that are present are mroe than adequate. This game does have several background tunes you can choose from by pausing the game and pushing B to cycle through the tunes. However none of the music is any good, plus you can't hear the sound effects. The music is off by default and you just may want to leave it that way.

    There really isn't much to say about the controls, which are very easy to use. You just move back and forth and drop tiles or throw them back. The game is very responsive, which helps you pull off some quick moves.

    Challenge & Playability:
    Like most arcade puzzlers, Klax does a great job in the gameplay department. This is a game that anyone can easily learn and provides a challenging yet addicting experience. There's a multitude of ways to get through each wave, giving you chances to try something different. Also the gameplay was left intact from the arcade original, so fans of the coin-op can jump right in here without any problems. The challenge level is also pretty fair, especially since you can tweak it to suit your skills. The game can be a tad frustrating at times, especially when the computer seems to intentionally withhold a tile color you desparately need, but they don't pop up all that often, plus it forces you think of other ways to succeed, adding to the challenge. While it may take several tries to get through the later levels, it has that charm that makes you want to try one more time. Also the two-player mode is good, though it would have been nice to have a versus mode, just as Tengen did with other games like Ms. Pac-Man.

    Overall Klax turns out to be another great puzzler for the NES as well as another quality arcade conversion from Tengen. This game provides plenty of fun action for players of all skill levels that'll have you hooked for a while. While arcade purist might not like the face that certain sound clips are missing, the main gameplay is intact, so arcade fans will also enjoy it. It's definetly time for Klax, no matter what decade it is.

    - Review posted on October 30, 2007