Atari Lynx Review: KLAX on Lynx Lounge
By Brian Thomas Barnhart |
Hey, what is up everybody? Welcome back to the Lynx Lounge. Today we’re looking at arcade ports for the Atari Lynx. And umm.. what time is it? Umm, hmm.. I don’t know, it’s the ’90s so there’s always time for some KLAX. Am I right? I mean that’s what I always told myself in 1990. Time for some KLAX!
Now if you want to talk about a solid arcade port, to a portable system no less, I would say that KLAX is right up there. It’s a hall of fame as far as arcade ports go. Now, since there’s always time for some KLAX, why don’t we boot this thing up and play some KLAX? I’m ready. Let’s do it!
If you turn this game on for the first time you’re going to see some bit of a problem. Maybe. Maybe not. The landscape is wrong. Why would they do that? So basically if you thought you were going to play KLAX holding the Lynx as you would with any other game, you’re mistaken. You’re going to flip the Lynx lengthwise and play vertically.
Once the Lynx is flipped 90° you’re going to use your thumb to control the directional pad up on the top, and your other thumb to control the A and B buttons which are now positioned at the bottom. Thinking out of the box. I love it! This is what this system is all about.
The gameplay is simple, yet addictive. There’s a lot of different objectives within the game. The tiles are coming down this conveyer belt and you’ve got to stack them up. You can stack a bunch of them up on your little pallet, and then decide how you want to disperse them below.
There are different KLAX Waves that you get into. There’s a regular wave where you’re stacking like three of them on top of each other, or four tiles or five tiles. Then there are diagonal waves, there are horizontal waves, there are points waves, tile waves, and the higher up you go the crazier it gets.
I will be honest with you. I am not a KLAX master. I enjoy the game, it’s somewhat relaxing to me. Obviously the higher up it gets, it gets a little bit stressed. But there’s just something really cool about it, it has a really great atmosphere. The music is arcade-perfect. The sound effects, arcade-perfect. The look of it, very very close to the arcade. I’m not going to knock it because it is a portable system, however, to me I think this is the best you can get.
Some people might look at KLAX and go “oh, well that’s a Tetris rip off.” Well, I can’t argue with that, I mean it’s not a ‘rip off’ per se, however I believe that when Tetris came out on the Game Boy it really opened up a brand new market for gamers. You had your hardcore gamers, you had your gamers who liked the space games, you the gamers who liked the 2-D sidescrollers, the platformers, but then, when Tetris came out and it hit the market on the Game Boy, that opened up a whole new audience as far as casual gamers went.
You had a lot of people who didn’t play games who were now playing these puzzle type games, and all of a sudden that market share opened up big time. So, is this a direct response to Atari trying to capitalize on a new form of gamer? Absolutely. I would imagine that every company worth its salt had some sort of puzzle game that they were working on.
Now, a lot of people associated Tetris with Nintendo. It was the pack-in for the Game Boy. I had it, in 1989 I got it for Christmas and I actually still have that cartridge. I play it today, it’s a great game. However, maybe you didn’t know this, but Atari owned the rights to the arcade version of Tetris. Nintendo owned the rights to the home version. That’s why you have your Tetris cartridges for Nintendo Game Boy and NES.
“KLAX was ported to a bunch of different systems. However the sound effects, the digitized speech and just the whole vibe is something you can’t find in any other system. Not on the Genesis. Not on the TurboGrafx-16. Not on the NES. This is it right here to me. It is on the Atari Lynx, the one and only.”
– Brian Thomas Barnhart, Lynx Lounge
Now, do you remember an NES cartridge that was black, and said “Tengen”? These were the Tengen Nintendo cartridges. There was a Tetris version of that as well, there were two different cartridges released for Nintendo Entertainment System. Did you know that the Tengen cartridges were actually Atari? That was Atari Games trying to bypass Nintendo’s monopoly on the “golden seal of approval” when you had to be under contract with Nintendo to make games. Well Atari bypassed that completely. They made a branch called Tengen and snuck in under the radar and sold these really funky weird black NES cartridges. That was Atari Games.
So is KLAX a “Tetris killer?” Uh, no I don’t think KLAX is a Tetris killer, in fact I think it’s its own thing. Tetris is Tetris, KLAX is KLAX. It’s two different types of gameplay. Yeah, it kinda has the same vibe I guess because “shapes are falling down”? Okay, but that’s where the similarities pretty much end. If you wan to play Tetris you play Tetris, and if you want to play KLAX you play KLAX. They’re both great games.
If I wanted to play KLAX I would definitely play it on the Lynx. Hands down, without a doubt. Not only can I take it with me but it is probably as close to the arcade as you are going to get. And you know there is also a version of KLAX on the Atari 7800 – a secret prototype version that maybe we’ll be able to look at on 7800 Avenue, the new show. That’s right, if you tuned in last week we’ve got a new show about Atari 7800. We have The Jag Bar which is still kicking, we’ve got a lot of episodes that we are filming this week for that. And then also.. well you’re looking at it, the Lynx Lounge. You’ve got three Atari shows to pick from. Which one do you like? Let me know in the Forums!
So if you are traveling, and you happen to go into your friendly neighborhood retro game store, definitely look for KLAX on Atari Lynx. You’re not going to regret it. It’s probably going to be cheap, and it’s a great play.
Hey remember, if you’re going to play KLAX you gotta play it vertically! Don’t play it horizontally, that’s the way dum-dums play it! You gotta play it up, that’s the way cool guys do it. Alright, we’ll see you guys next time. See you later!
KLAX was programmed at Atari by Greg Omi. Art and animation by Susan G. McBride, Greg Omi, Gary Johnson and KE Rudis. Music by LX Rudis.
Brian Thomas Barnhart is a classic gaming aficionado, retro pop culture connoisseur, and a Senior Fellow at Atari I/O. He is host of The Jag Bar, Lynx Lounge, 7800 Avenue, and the Atari I/O After Hours Podcast. Brian is a Moderator in the Atari I/O Forums under the name btbfilms76. You can follow him on Instagram and at his YouTube channel.
model # PA 2032