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June 2019


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: The Arcade Crew
Developer: TurtleBlaze


Switch/PC Preview - 'Kunai'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 27, 2019 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Kunai is a Metroidvania adventure best explored through ninja-tier parkour and best survived with razor sharp combat reflexes.

At some point in the future, robots will be created. They'll outlast (most of) humanity and have their own robot society. Because they were created by humans, there will be good robots and bad robots. The bad robots (led by a crazy AI) will take over the world, but a robot resistance will fight the good fight. In their darkest hour, a robot with a tablet for a head will rise to save them all. It's up to you to take control of Tabby and lead the resistance to victory with your mad skills. This is Kunai.

It's just enough of a backstory to provide context, but it's not enough to weigh down the game with an overly detailed plot. You're good, they're bad, and you have to fight your way to the finish. The core of the gameplay loop in Kunai will be movement. How you traverse the world is going to be just as important as your trigger finger.

I had a chance to play a short demo of the game, and even at this early stage, the movement is mostly there. If anything, it was a hair on the twitchy side, but I quickly adjusted as I made my way through the time trial, which was designed to require the use of all your tools.

Tabby's arsenal consists of the namesake Kunai, a katana, and a large gun. The Kunai allows Tabby to traverse vertically by firing grappling hooks. Each one of the pair is controlled by a separate button on the controller. This allows for finer control, but it also means movement ends up being somewhat rhythmic once you get into the groove. The katana works well for slicing and dicing enemies, while the gun serves double duty as a weapon and as a hover device. Yes, you can jump into the air and hover by firing your gun straight down. You'll stay up in the air until your clip runs out.

Unlike the time trial, the story mode demo started me off without any abilities, so it felt more like a tutorial. The Metroidvania elements were obvious, but the Arcade Crew rep who was showing off the game told me that the plan is to ensure players get all of their abilities early on in the game. The goal is to make Tabby feel like a badass quickly.

In its current state, Kunai is solely a single-player adventure. The Arcade Crew is testing co-op play, but they only want to move forward with it if it works. From my perspective, that's a great way to approach it. A great single-player game without co-op is better than one that has a poor co-op mode tacked on just so another feature can be listed on the box.

One element of Kunai that stands out is the visual design. The areas on display in the demo all consisted of muted blues and browns, with pixel shading used to create a retro look. The limited color palette did a great job of implying an apocalyptic future and letting your imagination fill in the rest. It also meant that enemies, with their red accents, have a visual pop whenever they appear on-screen. In the early levels, this is really about establishing a look and feel, but as players become more proficient and start attempting speed runs, having clearly marked enemies will be a necessity. Given the inclusion of a time trial mode, this is an element that is likely on the development team's mind.

What stood out the most from my time with the Kunai demo wasn't what I experienced while playing it, but what I felt after putting down the controller. I wanted more. Kunai's demo is a great tease of potential, and it leaves you with a sense of anticipation for what's to come. Keep an eye on this one to see if the Arcade Crew and TurtleBlaze can deliver on that potential.

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