At first glance, Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament looks like it might share a lot in common with adventure-style games such as Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog. However, once you've played through just a few of this game's 50 levels, you'll realize that it's actually a puzzle game that happens to have the look and feel of a side-scrolling adventure game.
Klonoa himself functions like a typical adventure game hero. He can run, jump, or float, and his magic ring gives him the ability to grab onto and throw enemies. Each of the game's 50 levels has roughly two or three subsections, each full of platforms, ladders, conveyors, spikes, doors, and any number of tricky jumps or mildly taxing switch puzzles. Klonoa has three points of health and will lose one by touching an enemy, but those same enemies are also his main tools for getting past obstacles. There are at least a dozen enemies and each has its own use when captured. Boomies and moos allow Klonoa to double-jump when tossed downward, or they can destroy boxes if thrown ahead. Goomies are little floating balloons that you can grab onto and use to propel Klonoa higher. Rikuris change color when they're thrown at other enemies, which is useful for activating colored switches. Figuring out how to use each enemy, and when, in order to get to the exit is the whole point of the game.
A fast run through the game won't take you more than a day or two. However, if you want to unlock all of Dream Land's secrets, you'll have to get "S" rankings and collect all of the sun stones hidden in each world. That means completing each level perfectly, with all of the gems and without taking damage. The standard layout for each world includes six normal stages, a surfboard bonus stage, a forced-scrolling stage, and a boss stage. Each world also contains an extra tough "EX" level (as well as a bonus art picture), and these are unlocked by completing all levels in that world with a perfect status. Luckily, you can retry any level at any time and the game will automatically record your progress to one of three save slots.
If you already own the first Klonoa game for GBA, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams, then you know exactly what you're getting with the sequel. It is simply more of the same and more of it--more levels, more bonus levels, more secret levels, more bosses, and more furniture to play with. This time around, the bonus levels involve collecting gems while riding a surfboard through different jungle environments. These bonus levels are at least somewhat engaging, since they use a behind-the-back perspective that gives the illusion of 3D environments. As for new furniture items, you'll run across whirlwinds (which propel Klonoa upward), flowerpots (which grow ladderlike vines when an enemy is tossed into them), and arrow boxes (which propel an explosion forward) among the vast collection of elevators, springboards, bombs, and switches that were carried over from the previous game.
The game's weakest areas are its graphics and audio, which, while not bad, seem outdated. There's a good explanation for that though. Namco released Klonoa 2 in Japan way back in 2002, but it has only now just gotten around to publishing the game in North America. The side-scrolling backgrounds make use of multiple layers and often include animated features such as clouds and rain. Meanwhile, the majority of enemies just walk around or float aimlessly, with perhaps three or four frames of animation, until you pick them up and throw them at something, which usually results in a sweet-looking balloon or rotation visual effect. In between levels, manga-style cutscenes and textual dialogue sequences help to advance the story. As for audio, the sound effects consist mainly of lighthearted animal and circus noises, while the music is best described as an upbeat collection of jazzy jungle-themed songs.
Ever since the Nintendo DS was released, the output of GBA games, let alone good GBA games, has petered out to next to nothing. Even though Namco sat on Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament for two years, it has picked a very opportune time to release it now. This unique marriage of the puzzle and adventure genres isn't for everyone, but those of you out there who like solving puzzles while hopping around will definitely get your money's worth.