Arcade Mania – Klax (1989)

Klax

It is Monday, and there is time for… Arcade Mania!

Tetris was the game that established the sub-genre of puzzle games in which objects in an alley must be manipulated to line up, or match colors, or some other criteria. Klax puts an interesting spin on this idea by having the player control not the pieces themselves, but rather a flipper that catches the pieces before dropping them into position. Thus, it actually acts as an intermediary between the ally in which the pieces fall, and the field in which the pieces are placed. It’s this separation that helps set Klax apart from other puzzle games where all of the action happens in the same area.

Klax
Do the flipper catch!

Klax is a game in which domino-like blocks flip down a platform and must be caught by the flipper. The flipper can hold up to five blocks at once, and must eventually drop them into the play field. The object is to line up at least three blocks of the same color either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. (This is what’s called a “Klax.”) If you fail to catch a block from the platform, it simply falls through a gap between the platform and the field. Miss too many and it’s game over. Each level has a different goal, from completing a certain number or type of “Klaxes”, scoring a certain number of points, or simply surviving an onslaught of blocks.

In a way, perhaps Klax was intended as a follow-up to Atari Games’s own arcade version of Tetris. With the rights to Tetris tied up in all sorts of legal knots, it was safer to create an entirely new game rather than anything that resembled Tetris too closely. Besides, Tetris was so 80s, and with the 90s quickly approaching, it was time for Klax.

Klax
Where are all those blocks coming from?

Speaking of which, Klax is probably most known for the phrase, “It is the nineties, and there is time for Klax,” which is shown during its attract screen. I don’t think it’s ever been fully understood exactly what this is supposed to imply, but then the vagueness of it is probably what makes it so memorable.

Another unusual part of Klax that stands out is the inclusion of crowd noises. Winning a stage results in an unseen audience applauding your success, while losing brings a collective groan. One of the designers has said that this was inspired by the crowd reactions from a game of golf. It’s still a somewhat random inclusion, but considering that the word “Tetris” was partially derived from “Tennis,” I suppose it makes some sort of weird sense that Klax would have its own vague sports reference.

Klax is a pretty common game, and has been ported to multiple platforms and included in many compilations. I played the arcade version included in Midway Arcade Treasures for this article. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play it for very long because, well… it’s no longer the 90s, and I don’t have time for this anymore.

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