GamingReview: Kunai

Review: Kunai

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Described by its developer TurtleBlaze as a fast paced action platformer Kunai manages to deliver on that promise and still has more to offer. With a blender pitch this game could be described as equal parts Strider and Megaman Zero with some metroidvania elements. The player controls an anthropomorphic tablet ninja called Tabby as he creatively traverses the environment and fights evil robots using various tools and abilities.

Set on a post-apocalyptic Earth populated with humanoid robots and ruled by an evil robot army the game opens when resistance fighters break into an abandoned laboratory and activate Tabby. Following that the plot focuses on him getting stronger and helping the resistance to defeat Lemonkuss, the leader of evil robots.

The plot isn’t very intricate and seems to exist mostly for all the great action to be built around. Even though the premise sounds serious there isn’t anything to convince the player of that. Most of the dialogue seems self-aware, often constructed for comedic effect, filled with wonderful, dry humour and references. Combined with the unapologetically gamey action it creates a lighthearted atmosphere.

Controlling Tabby is very responsive and fluid with the character never feeling too slow or too fast and even just his early moves allow him to run, jump and slash through terrain and enemies alike without stopping and with style. Throughout the game the player will unlock several weapons and tools which will allow for beating more complex environments and enemies. Each weapon is capable of attacking in four directions around the player and has further upgrades which improve passive stats of a weapon or unlock additional moves.

The main weapon available to the player from the start of the game is a sword capable of rapid slashes, deflecting projectiles and restoring health on kill. It is very satisfying to use with Tabby taking a step forward with each attack making it easy to advance towards enemies without getting hit by their projectiles. However at the same time when the sword connects the resistance of an object pushes Tabby away in the opposite direction. This encourages the player to take advantage of movement and carefully place their attacks instead of just slashing rapidly if they want to dispatch the enemies quickly.

Another tool available to the player through most of the game is the titular Kunai. These work as a pair of grappling hooks with Tabby able to launch them diagonally up left and right allowing him to swing off ceilings, cling to walls and climb quickly. The environments facilitate their use and often require being precise with them to cross obstacles. The other weapons and abilities add even more options to combat and traversal. They range from standard things like a double jump to SMGs that let Tabby hover when continuously fired downwards. All of those are easy to combo together allowing the player to get more and more creative as the game progresses and also their usefulness rarely overlaps with each having its niche.

There is a good variety of enemies in the game. It never feels like there could be more enemy types or as if some enemy is underused. All of them are distinct from each other having unique abilities as well as behaviours. The game starts off with very simple enemies and gradually introduces more complicated ones as well as various combinations of enemies keeping the game challenging and the difficulty curve smooth. Each section of the game also has a boss battle that requires the use of an ability or weapon that Tabby just acquired with the level before the boss doing very well at preparing the player for it.

The game has very well rendered 2D Gameboy Advance or Nintendo DS era style graphics. The environments use monochromatic colour palettes with each biome using a different one helping to distinguish them. The player as well as NPCs have heavy blue accents while enemies, attacks and danger in general use red. All of the above combined with smooth animations makes everything very easy to distinguish even during more visually intense fights and also very pleasant to look at.

I found sound design to also be reminiscent of old games meshing well with the visuals and it is just as well made. Sound effects for all the actions are all distinct from each other and all of the enemies have unique sound ques letting the player know what is coming even if they are off screen. All the biomes in the game also have their own theme music which helps them in having a unique mood. However the music can get a bit repetitive and I didn’t find any tracks that stuck with me except for the main menu theme which still didn’t stand out by much.

There are no technical problems as far as I can tell, everything appears to work as intended. My biggest complaint about the game is that the final boss is a moderate difficulty spike and I had to try several times to beat it while the rest of the game was a smooth ramp up. However in the grand scheme of things it is a minor complaint and could be excused as the final test for the player and the moment the game was building up to. Another issue for me was low replayability. There is no new game plus or alternative difficulties that would make me want to replay the game even though I had a lot of fun with it. I think a new game plus with remixed enemy placement including tougher enemies appearing earlier and more just enemies as well as remixed boss battles would have been perfect for this game and enough to make me play again right away.

Overall it is a great game. It is reminiscent of some great action-platformer classics while standing on its own and in some ways even surpasses them. I think it is worth it’s price but it also has a free demo so you can make sure it is something for you.

SUMMARY

+Stylish action from start to end
+Very responsive controls
+Variety of challenging combat and platforming
+Smooth difficulty curve
+Good visuals
+Good sound design
+Great use of visuals and sound in service of gameplay
-Low replayability
-Music can get repetitive
-Difficulty spikes at the end
(Reviewed on Nintendo Switch, also available on PC(Steam, GoG))
Grzegorz Cebera
I am passionate about video games as an art form and I am hoping to share some insight on the topic. I love all kinds of action games ranging from Dark Souls to Street Fighter.

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