Sunday, 3 October 2010

Game Review: Blade Kitten-XBLA, PSN, PC

The ability to download video games via market places such as XBLA, PSN and Steam may be nothing new these days but the last year or so has seen a slew of quality, affordable titles that have proven to be as entertaining and engaging as much of the premium boxed product filling high street shelves. Ranging from the inspiring, to the simplistic to the down right bizarre, these pick-up-and-play slices of entertainment have grown not just in sheer volume but in measured quality over time and, unsurprisingly, are hugely popular amongst the gaming community and games media alike. Without the constraints of time lines enforced by over zealous publishers or lucrative film studios, the creative freedom offered through producing entertainment for the downloadable market is a boon to developers keen to show of their talents without a having to contend with-for the most part-a mountain of pressure and innumerable rising costs.

Blade Kitten is one such video game and while on the surface it may appear to be a cynical stab at past greats such as Strider and Pandemonium, Krome Studios’ frenetic platformer carries a delightful charm all of its own design. Taking control of a pink haired, sassy, American teenage voiced, bounty hunting cat-girl named Kit and her veritable roster of skills and abilities, Krome Studios’ throws you into a vibrant, colourful world resplendent with big, chunky visuals that fill the screen. Each level offers its own unique style as you take Kit on her adventure of wall jumping, projectile hurling, sword swinging and nimble cat climbing, dispatching the local law enforcement and collecting tokens of various colour and value as you go.  There's no doubting that Blade Kitten is a very pretty game and its mixture of American styled cartoon art and Japanese anime is a welcome change from all the browns and greys dominating many of today's blockbuster titles.

Kit’s goal is simple: Collect enough tokens and buy herself a new space ship to replace the one destroyed by said law enforcement whilst at the same time try to retrieve a bounty stolen by a rival. As well her acrobatic and wall climbing skills, Kit is armed with an electrified floating sword that obeys her every command and that can be used as both a close combat weapon and projectile attack. Perform enough combos and head stomps and our heroine can pull out of the bag a Matrix style special attack taking down everyone in her path for the duration of the move. Kit’s sword is also helpful in hitting switches and releasing traps that are otherwise unobtainable, allowing Kit to traverse dangerous fire pits and unlock countless secret areas and alternate pathways.

As you progress, Kit will pick up a few helpful hangers-on along the way, ride a hairless Chocobo type camel thing, run and jump like the clappers away from screen-filling bosses and encounter a host of bizarre characters and creatures. These interludes go a long way in helping to mix things up a bit in what is ostensibly your typical platformer and, thankfully, do so without breaking to much away from the original template. Add into the mix the ability to visit the local merchant where you can buy new weapons, upgrades and costumes for our nimble heroine, a funky selection of tunes ranging from jazz fusion to up beat techno and what you have is a well rounded slice of platforming action that should be appeal to all types of gamers looking for a undemanding, Sunday afternoons bout of gaming.

Krome Studios’ platformer is not without its faults of course. The camera likes to keep the sensation of being constantly on the move and while it does add to the ‘zaniness’ of the game with it’s constant zipping in and out and panning around it does take a little getting used to in the opening stages, especially when chaining together Kit’s repertoire of moves. Also, in perhaps a bid to maintain a sense of speed, some of the levels are far too short and lack some of the exploration and the endless amounts of collectables found in many of the other levels leaving you feeling somewhat cheated. Did I mention the voice acting?  While its not quite as cringe worthy as Resident Evil on the PSone it can grate, but having said that it suits it's purpose well enough even if it is more Nickelodeon than Shakespeare.  Other than that though, unless you’re looking for gritty realism combined with multi-million dollar set pieces and effects, there’s very little here to complain about.

Blade Kitten may not be the most original of concepts and makes no excuses for wearing its influences clearly on its sleeve and as such has its tongue firmly set in its cheek. Is it homage or a blatant rip-off of past glories? Well I guess that’s up for debate, but what ever you might decide one thing is for certain, Blade Kitten is an absolute blast.



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