Content Test 3

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Blade Kitten
Graphics: 6
Gameplay: 5.6
Sound: 5.4
Control: 5.1
Replay Value: 5.3
Rating: 5.5

Cats are cute. Kit Ballard is cute. The chick she’s chasing is cute. Kit’s playful banter is cute. The presentation is, on the whole…cute. Unfortunately, there’s nothing cute about the repetitive and seriously flawed gameplay, which means this little pink kitty outstays her welcome pretty fast. The various forms of cuteness will keep you playing longer than you normally would when faced with a partly broken game, but that’s about it. Blade Kitten is the game with a great name and an absurdly appealing anime premise that combines relatively straightforward platforming and combat with a silly storyline and a few small, albeit relatively fun, twists. The biggest problem centers on the constant, ceaseless repetition and controls that just aren’t reliable enough. No game, regardless of presentation and charm, can survive very long when bogged down by a core mechanic that simply doesn’t work very well.

But at least we get to start with that nice presentation: the graphics are very anime-ish in style and while some of the environments are drab and borderline nasty-looking, the animations are smooth and clean, and the game’s style and flair are big bonuses. Character design is decent, too, and the cut-scenes are well done, so you’ll almost want to push through a particularly frustrating section just to see the next storyline segment. But Krome Studios utilizes the same kind of level and backdrop too often, and the enemies tend to appear and act the same (with the exception of one admittedly cool boss). I would’ve liked more in the way of nifty special effects as well; this one could’ve used extra flash and panache, because it fits the fashion structure. It just all sort of blends together after a while and although it’s still nice, the graphical palette starts to wear on you. In short, the visual charm holds out longer than the gameplay, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Much like everything else in the game, the soundtrack is uber-repetitive and although fitting, doesn’t do enough to enhance the experience. The voices are decent, though; Kit sounds just about right, and the voices of most major characters are better than average and even pleasing at times. The sound effects are all right, as the combat effects are sharp and clear, and some of the impact effects (like when Kit smashes through a wall) are fairly well orchestrated. They just needed to give us more music and perhaps even more effects during gameplay to spice things up. The balance between soundtrack and effects is fine but due to a lack of variety, it doesn’t really matter. Again, though, the anime fans may like it more, because the Japanese influences – on most every technical element – are obvious. So if it’s your thing, maybe you can tolerate it better.

Blade Kitten has 3D visuals but plays more like a 2D side-scroller, as your agile feline character can cling to and clamber along walls and ceilings (ala Strider), sprint, block, slide, double jump, execute a few different attacks, and even control a floating blade by your side. There are some minor puzzles, a bunch of relatively mindless enemies, and even a special attack that you can unleash after filling up a certain meter. You can explore about, finding secrets and collecting Hex (this game’s form of currency), all the while leaping about and slicing your foes to pieces. Her health restores quickly but if she gets knocked about in a short span of time, she will fall and you’ll be restored to the last checkpoint. It’s usually “kill or be killed” throughout; i.e., the faster you react, the better off you’ll be. But at the same time, you have to use a wee bit of strategy as simple actions can deplete stamina.

It all sounds good but the controls are just too erratic and unreliable. Kit’s momentum doesn’t really seem necessary and can cause problems, and jumping back and forth between walls can be very frustrating. See, Kit can either stick to or jump off most walls and because one only uses the X button for all her acrobatics, things can get confusing and irritating. You’ll get the hang of it after a while, but you never quite feel as if you’re in complete control, which is a serious downfall. Besides that, while the secrets are fun to find and completionists will want every piece of Hex they can find, the levels just aren’t inspired enough to warrant much interest. And while combat requires reflexes and timing, it doesn’t require much else and pretty soon, you’ll have seen most all there is to see. Oh, and strangely enough, those foes can respawn…why, I have no idea. It wasn’t a good plan; it’s especially annoying when trying to explore.

Gathering up Hex helps because you can purchase health and stamina upgrades, and being a Final Fantasy fan, I liked the little pink Chocobo. Well, it’s not a Chocobo; it’s called a Noot, which you can actually ride at certain points throughout the game. Your only goal is to collect more Hex while astride the Noot, though, so it’s not like the mount expands upon the combat or platforming elements. It can be fun to purchase new skins and other collectibles but for the most part, most all items and upgrades that can be purchased are unnecessary. Although I bought plenty, I doubt you need much to actually finish the game, because battling really just comes down to jamming on a couple buttons. Having the long-range attack via the Circle button – when the floating blade flies out and attacks, sort of like a Familiar – is nice, but the rest is just Square, Square, Square…hold Square to block, rinse, repeat.

There just isn’t enough here, and those unreliable controls continue to plague the adventure throughout. Blade Kitten is one of those good ideas that stumbles due to mediocre execution and almost mindless repetition, in terms of both gameplay and technical aspects. I tend to enjoy the old-school retro-type games but this one really doesn’t work well enough. I suppose if you really get into the presentation and characters – and that’s possible – you might be more inclined to purchase and finish it. Kit herself might be enough. But you had best harbor some sort of bizarre feline fetish for it to be worth the cost of admission.

9/25/2010   Ben Dutka