During their stay in a strange land, Klonoa and his friend Huepow are arrested for the crime of dreaming. It seems that emperor Jillius, afflicted with a curse that prevents him from sleeping, has jealously forbidden his own people to dream. Now, Klonoa's punishment is to rid the land of five monsters that are ravaging the empire. Only then will Jillius be able to sleep.
Although an adventure game in spirit, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is primarily a puzzle game. Klonoa himself can run, jump, or float, while his magic ring (along with Huepow's help) gives him the ability to capture and throw enemies. Each of the game's 40 stages is an environmental puzzle full of platforms, conveyors, spikes, doors, and any number of tricky jumps or waylaid hazards. Enemies are key to Klonoa's mission, as each serves its own unique purpose when captured. For example, boomies let you destroy fragile walls, moos help you to leap higher, and spikers can deflate other enemies. In all, there are 40 individual stages, five hoverboard stages, and six difficult bosses.
As the adage goes, Klonoa is easy to play but difficult to master. Although you can topple the sixth and final monster within a few days, collecting all of the gems within each stage is the true measure of skill. Gathering the 30 gems within each standard area is child's play, but each kingdom also contains a snowboard stage as well as an auto-scrolling race stage, both of which contain 100 gems apiece. Gather each and every gem, and you can unlock the three madly difficult hidden stages. Thankfully, there are three save slots to record your progress.
Klonoa: Empire of Dreams doesn't slouch in terms of presentation either. Despite a minimal level of background animation, the game looks awesome. Vibrant multiplaned backgrounds convey the vision of the nightmare kingdom, complete with scaling foreground character sprites and loads of rotation effects. Between levels, an array of colorful, albeit stilted, cutscene animations advance the story. As for audio, the moody, dreamlike music suits the action to a T, while crisp voice samples and sound effects offer the perfect example of lighthearted ambience.
Fans of the Klonoa series are sure to notice that Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is nowhere as ambitious as Klonoa 2 on the PlayStation 2. However, it is a highly respectable emulation of the general feel of the Klonoa universe and is excellent competition for Nintendo's upcoming Wario Land 4.