Game Review: Kamiko (Switch)

There has been a huge resurgence in the past few years to create games that echo back to that of the early days of games like The Legend of Zelda, a game that has no less been the inspiration for hundreds, if not thousands, of games, regardless of their genre. With a variety of platforms to develop for and a digital marketplace being the go-to way for people to buy their games, the age of Indy developers is at an all-time high. Fresh from their 3DS series Fairune, developer Skipmore is back with an all-new adventure game for the Nintendo Switch, and it ain’t half bad, it’s just really short.

Upon immediately starting up Kamiko you can easily see the pixel aesthetic style that is remarkably similar to what Hyper Light Drifter did not too long ago, and while Heart Machine’s own game does pay its tribute to that of The Legend of Zelda itself, it is very hard not to look at Kamiko and immediately see the exact same art style here, again, not a bad thing.

You start the game as either the swords-woman Yamato, Uzume the Archer, or Hinome with her mirror shield. While each of the characters wield different weapons, they all move and control the same way. Yamato is good at close range, and depending on the situation, that can be a bonus. Hinome’s shield can be tossed at angles, but this isn’t the case with Uzume and her bow, as you can only shoot in the four basic directions. After completing the game fully once with Uzume, it was my next playthrough as Yamato that felt far better in the way the game I think was meant to be played. It just felt more natural and far more fast paced.

Kamiko lasts just under an hour with its four levels, each of which ends in a well thought out boss encounter. Each of the levels look different, feel different, and offer a variety in gameplay mechanics like switches, doors and timed bridges that require some quick footed movement. Each level has the same basic core gameplay as you’ll kill enemies to earn SP that you’ll use to open doors, containers and purify shrines to gain access to the boss. These shrines will also act as your save points and considering that each level lasts just under 20 minutes, you don’t have much to backtrack upon should you die. Levels are packed with chests that contain items to boost how much SP you can hold as well as items that add more to your overall health.

I found that the levels themselves had a nice progression and do get harder as you progress and start to implement more and more mechanics level after level. You’ll need to carry various items to certain sections of the map to power doors or to unlock them. While you carry these items you’ll have to dodge enemies as any touch will have you drop said item. The final level has so much going on that it can take a few runs to find a path that is safe. Each character has a boost that allows you to fly by enemies and while the boost can help evade some threats, I only ever found it good for flying across the bridges that appear when you flick a switch, which only happened I believe three times during my playthrough. For speed runners, I can totally see the appeal of the boost, but it didn’t feel that needed during my play.

The bosses have attack patterns and aside from the final boss, they all operate within a three hits and they drop format that is as old as time itself, well, at least as old as basic game design anyway. One boss, in particular, jumps around after you and you’ll need to make him hit four switches around the level. Each boss has a weak spot, which is a red orb that will show itself at the start of the fight and then worm its way into a black and white construct that you’ll do battle with.

Combat is as typical as you can get, sword’s slash, bow’s fire, and the mirror shield tends to work like an attack yo-yo. I found the bow to be rather slow and since this isn’t a twin-stick style shooter, you can only aim the bow to your standard four directions. The timing of the bow is also rather slow and I found I was missing shots very often. I’d aim to hit something and by the time the arrow let loose of the bow, it moved. Now, the bow does fire off three arrows the further it flies, but with enemies being able to move while the bow animation is playing out, it can be awkward in its timing nonetheless and enemies can close in on you for a close combat hit. The sword is fun, fast and works well, but does lack the long-range protection of the bow. The mirror shield plays itself safe in the middle by offering a close range knife strike while the long range mirror shield does its damage. Each character has a charge up move like a huge barrage of arrows finding multiple targets and the mirror shield almost spinning you like a top through a group of enemies.

Visually, as I’ve mentioned, the game borrows its style almost entirely upon what Hyper Light Drifter did, and that’s not a bad thing as HLD is one my favorite games of all time. While the game does LOOK the part, it sadly doesn’t play as polished or as quick as that game. While this is its own thing, the game could use quicker attacks to make it more enjoyable. I’d love to see either more levels added or at least some sort of procedural generation to add replay. Currently, you can beat the game with each character well under three hours as it’s very possible to wrap the game in about 40 minutes when you know how to unlock certain doors or find certain hidden paths.

Kamiko also has a fairly enjoyable chiptune soundtrack that while good, it lacks the ability to burrow its way into your head and become something you are humming along with or hearing away from the game. The length of the game may have something to do with that as it doesn’t really allow the soundtrack enough time to get its hooks into you. The length of the game also impact the story as while there isn’t much, it’s your typical good must vanquish evil and purify what the evil has done to the land.

All in all, Kamiko is decent and considering it’s only about 7 bucks for an hour of two of gameplay, it can be a nice addition to a very limited Switch library and makes for a good game to play on breaks or when you just need a quick gaming fix.

Kamiko was reviewed via a digital copy purchased from the Nintendo Eshop store. All screenshots were taken and uploaded to Twitter via the Nintendo Switch.

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