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PAX Aus 2015: KLANG – More Than Just A Beat ‘Em Up

There were a few surprises on the opening day of this year’s PAX Aus, and I was definitely caught unaware by rhythm-based brawler KLANG. In the game, players must progress by both performing platforming-esque traversals and deflecting enemy attacks with a tuning fork, all the while keeping in time with the game’s electronic soundtrack.

After two years in production by one-man Norwegian team Tom-Ivar Arntzen (under the name Tinimations), KLANG feels quite polished and looks like it’s been slaved over by a team of five 0r six people. I took some time to chat with Tom about the game.

Hayden Waugh: To kick things off, Tom, tell us a little bit about KLANG.

Tom-Ivar Artntzen: Well, KLANG is a rhythm platformer, where both the combat and the platforming is only rhythm-based. The combat is based around the mechanic of reflecting enemy attacks while you keep your groove going, and that’s how you defeat them; that’s kind of the ‘elevator pitch’.

HW: I really like the art style of the game. How did you decide on that design choice as well as the colour palette?

TIA: Thank you. It all started with the music: I like electronic music and it needed to complement that. Because of that, the game ended up in a sci-fi direction quite quickly and then, of course, I went looking for references to stuff like Tron, neon and hexagons. But, I also wanted to blend with this almost tribal-esque design, so different people could look at the game in a different way. Some people might think: “Okay, they’re robots”; “Wait, are they naked but wear neon armour?” – which is totally intentional.

Also, when it came to the weapons, I didn’t want to go for swords. I wanted it to be a weapon that specialises in counter-attacking instead of attacking people, because there’s that non-violent musical aspect to it; that’s how I decided on the tuning forks.

HW: Can you give us a bit of backstory on what the game’s about? 

TIA: You start the game by crashing a rave party, and there’s this dude that looks like Techno-Zeus who is kind of pissed off at you. You start ‘raving’ and all of a sudden there’s this Illuminati eye looking very pleased at you going: “Yes, keep going, son!” And it just goes from there. It has a psychedelic element to it – completely intentional, of course!

HW: Have you opted for pure enjoyment or cranked up the difficulty with the game?

TIA: I mean, the difficulty will spike up eventually but I’ve made it so that players will get maximum enjoyment out of the game. Personally, I’m not that big of a fan of those super, hardcore, “f**k you” kinds of games – but I’m cool with a type of steady difficulty curve. In the beginning it’s very easy and once you hit a certain threshold, the game says, “Okay, prove yourself!”, which will come into its own in the Arcade Mode. But, KLANG is all about having fun, learning the mechanics, being intrigued in the world and there’s also the replay value when they finish the game; that’s when the real challenge comes into play.

HW: Did you think about implementing an inventory system at some stage?

TIA: Not really. I really wanted to nail the main aspect of the game and not chase after too many features. I kept thinking that if I get what mechanics I’m after right, than people will come to KLANG to get this one, amazing feeling. There’s always a possibility for items and stacks of other new functions but that can be a hook for a potential sequel, right?

HW: Have you given players some leeway in case they mistime their strikes?

TIA: Yeah, I am pretty forgiving when it comes to that sort of thing. The scoring system tracks how precise you are which, for most people, won’t matter for shit. But, if you’re completely artistic and need to clear everything at 110 percent, then I suppose that’s something I can tweak when I work more on the Arcade Mode.

HW: What do you think are the main drivers for an entertaining rhythm game?

TIA: Well, firstly, you really need to feel like you’re a part of the music. What I mean by that is, if you don’t follow it, you’re not helping yourself and you’re subsequently out of sync with the game: that’s the bare minimum. But, I also wanted to blend this with the immersion and world that a lot of action games bring: players come full circle so they get the best of both worlds.

With a lot of rhythm games, you press the button and that’s it. The closest rhythm game I’ve seen to making the experience interactive is Crypt of the Necrodancer, which I really liked.

HW: Thanks for your time! KLANG is set for release Q1, 2016 on PC, Mac and Linux. You can follow the progress of KLANG on Twitter, @Tinimations.

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