KLAX is a rather unique puzzle game that bears little resemblance to its better known puzzling peers. While Atari was gearing up to release it, they used the term “tic tac tile” to describe the basic gameplay mechanic. This is a fair description, but KLAX is also very animated and at times quite hectic!
Tetris was very popular at the time of KLAX’s release, so Atari wanted to bring another interesting puzzle game to a market that was ready for it. To play KLAX, one or two simultaneous players operate a paddle which can move only left and right. This paddle is situated at the end of a ramp of sorts, some say a conveyer belt, on which multicolored bricks cascade closer in five columns. It’s the player’s job to use the paddle to catch these bricks, then arrange them in a staging area depending on the completion requirements of that wave. Placing three same-colored bricks in a row, stack or diagonal arrangement, which is called a KLAX, is the way to achieve the varied goals of each level. If the player allows three of the tiles to drop off the playing field, or fills the staging area without completing the goal, the result is Game Over, with an option to continue. The player receives bonuses between each wave for extra space left in the staging area. In a pinch, the player can also toss a tile back onto the board, but this is a temporary fix at best, as the board can become quite crowded that way.
Advanced levels of KLAX can become quite frenetic, as more and more bricks fill up the ramp and speed toward the paddle. There is a finite amount of stages (100), so it is possible to actually complete KLAX. The late eighties and early nineties are well-preserved here in the charming aesthetics of KLAX. There are plenty of pinks and purples and bright colorful designs to create a strong visual appeal. It’s also got great sound: the clacking of the approaching tiles creating a sort of dynamic soundtrack, and a pleasant round of applause caps the completion of each wave. (Where’s the audience, anyway?)
KLAX enjoyed several ports to the home console market, which reflected its success in the arcade scene. As both a unique puzzle game and bit of a time capsule, KLAX is an excellent game to learn, and a difficult one to master!