Monday 7 June 2021

Kaze and the Wild Masks Review (Nintendo Switch)

Kaze and the Wild Masks has been causing quite a stir among fans of retro styled games recently and it’s not even a Metroidvania. Heavily influenced by classic Rayman and Donkey Kong games it certainly wears its influences clearly on its sleeve but Kaze is more than just another imitator.

Indeed, when were first looking at it we wondered if instead we should just go back and play one of its main influences instead? As it turns out that would have been a mistake as Kaze has more than enough of its own personality to stand alone in the market.

As always with these things the plot is somewhat crazy. In this case you need to save your friend Hogo from a host of recently cursed and mutated evil vegetables. In order to do this you need to use magical masks that offers unique abilities as well as your standard running, jumping and floating skills. The masks in question are similar to Donkey Kong’s animal friends and allow Kaze to draw on the powers of a shark (for swimming), A Tiger (for climbing) an Eagle (for Flying) and a Lizard (for, erm, zipping around).

You can’t use the masks all the time and they are instead limited to specific levels designed around the particular skill set required. The abilities help to add variety and do lead to some fiendish and downright evil level design. Speaking of which, the games that most influence Kaze’s levels are clearly both the original Rayman and the Origins and Legends reboots. The rhythm of them is very similar and when you are placed into one of the ‘chase’ stages we couldn’t help thinking about the crushingly difficult auto-run stages featured heavily in Origins in particular.

This highlights another feature of Kaze, that being it’s tough even from the early going. This can be mitigated to some degree though the settings which allows players to pick a difficulty which adds extras checkpoints but be prepared to need a sizable chunk of patience in order to progress. You are also going to need to have a Jedi-like understanding of the controls as well. This isn’t one for the feint hearted.

It’s handy then that the controls work well. Away from the masks, Kaze has a number of standard abilities at the player’s disposal. The key ones are the spin (which acts much like Dixie Kong’s hair, Or a Tasmanian Devils spin for that matter), a downward dive and the good old head bounce. The head bounce is surprisingly the one that you’ll need to get the hang of due to the fact that you spin afterwards. This fine for when you need to continue forward momentum but you can’t jump out of the animation. This means if you miss time jumping on an enemy that you need to bounce off to reach a platform by a fraction you normally end up plummeting to your doom.

On the standard setting you only get one checkpoint per level as well so be prepared to repeat the same sections over and over again. This highlights one feature of Kaze and retro gaming that we really don’t want to be reminded of. Yes, the dreaded ‘memory test’ is very much present here.

There are numerous levels where players have no real chance of progressing without edging through each section following death after death. There simply isn’t enough time for players to react to things on the fly so remembering how enemies move and the sequence of obstacles becomes the only route to progression. The same fate befalls boss battles meaning you are effectively having to play each one at least three times to have any chance of success.

The level design in general though is excellent, so those that can cope with the throwback style will find little else to complain about. This goes for the game overall as well as the general presentation and feel is excellent. The fact it easily matches Rayman and Donkey Kong in terms of mechanics and style speaks volumes for the work that has been put into it.

Overall, Kaze and the Wild Masks is a perfect throwback to the days of the 16-bit platformer (or at least the homages to 16-bit platformers that came later). This is both a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it. We could have done with it being a little bit less faithful in a few aspects but there is so much here to love that anyone with that retro inkling should put it at the top of their platforming wish list.


Overall 8/10

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