For developers who grew up with old platform games from the NES and SNES era, these games are often a source of inspiration. The authors of Kaze and the Wild Masks, for example, do not hide the fact that they are crazy about Donkey Kong Country and wanted to create something similar. Fortunately, the Brazilian studio PixelHive succeeded – this is a great platformer full of surprises, references and various mechanics.
Hare instead of monkey
In the role of the bunny Case, we must save the island from the curse, divided into three dozen levels. As such, there is no plot here, except for the introductory video, but you don’t feel the need for history. It is enough to know that the curse has turned all the vegetables into monsters, and ferocious carrots with embittered tomatoes will become almost the main obstacles in the way of the heroine.
What was Donkey Kong Country famous for and why is it so remembered by many? Not so long ago, the authors of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair answered this question, an amazing platform game in which everything was done right: the locations are completely different, and the situations are unique, and there are secrets, and the complexity is not entirely childish. In Kaze and the Wild Masks, all this is also available, except that there is not enough originality.
There is a lot of diversity here – if the first, introductory location is a banal level from a classic platformer, then everything becomes much more interesting. A level with slingshots, a level with moving platforms and obstacles in their path, a level with a hurricane chasing the heroine, a level with rising acid, a level with a slippery floor… You don’t even want to sit and remember which games had exactly the same conditions – you just pass episodes one after another and enjoy.
In addition, there are collectibles and secrets in each level. There are two time trials each, where there are also interesting ideas, like killing all enemies without landing. There are four letters of the word KAZE, for which sometimes you have to risk your life in the hope of getting to them. Secrets are hidden very well – on the one hand, their location is not always evident immediately, and on the other hand, you do not have to rub against every wall in an attempt to find them. If you look closely, you can see either a strange bunch of pixels, or a hole in the wall or platform, with which you can get to the bonus.
Upon completion of the level, several medals are issued: one for finding all the letters, another for participating in both time trials, and the third for collecting hundreds of crystals, which are usually a little more at the location. But that’s not all – a separate bonus is due for passing without damage, and when you restart the episode after its completion, you can take part in the race against the clock. Usually I’m not very fond of such entertainment, but here I wanted to clear each level by 100%, since the conditions are not so harsh and the same “speedruns” in most cases are completed on the second attempt.
Flow of ideas in Kaze and the Wild Masks
The location design is not the most outstanding and is unlikely to surprise with anything, but each episode is thought out to the smallest detail. Enemies are not thoughtlessly placed, nor are traps, and this becomes especially noticeable during time trials, when the correct use of skills allows you to perfectly jump over the enemy or reach the next platform. The hare has not so many abilities: a jump, a slow dive after it and a dash forward, which serves as a blow. Other skills are added to this depending on the situation – for example, if there are ropes at the location, the character clings to them with his ears.
The masks included in the title of the game also grant new tricks, but only in certain episodes. Having tried on the shape of a shark, a hare will learn to swim under water, and in a tiger mask she will be able to jump off the walls. And when she dresses up as a lizard, the game generally turns into a runner – the heroine runs non-stop and acquires a double jump. The ability to transform on the fly, as in Monster Boy, is not here – the masks simply dilute the gameplay, briefly offering the player new opportunities. Without the appearance of a shark, for example, the heroine only floats on the surface of the water and dives shallowly – at such moments the game surprises with other mechanics.
Even if you try to find flaws here, it will be difficult to do so. The controls are very convenient – there have never been situations when the game did not respond to pressing and because of this I died. The difficulty is moderate, you won’t have to get stuck in the same place for a long time. Even if difficulties arise, you can switch from the standard mode to the simplified one, where there are more save points. But there is no need to do this – here, unlike Donkey Kong Country, there is no limited number of lives, and even in normal mode, the heroine has the opportunity to survive after the first injury.
The game looks charming – although it is not the most luxurious pixel art, it is pleasant to look at Kaze and the Wild Masks. The characters are well animated, the locations are diverse, and all sorts of effects like heavy rain, wind or fire in the forest look decent. The musical accompaniment is great – you hardly want to listen to it separately from the game, but during the passage it sounds great.
Kaze and the Wild Masks turned out to be a very pleasant surprise – you might think that this is another faceless platformer, of which there are hundreds on Steam and consoles, but you get extremely positive emotions from the game. Of course, she is a little cramped within the spiritual successor of Donkey Kong Country – in the same Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, the developers tried to mix different genres and recreate the familiar formula a little differently. Here is a verbatim citation of the original source. Be that as it may, the game does not become less amazing – this is a wonderful platformer that risks unfairly going unnoticed.
Pros: a wide variety of situations makes the gameplay very exciting; solid design of locations with secrets and collectibles in each episode; excellent complexity and convenient control; it is difficult to overcome the desire to return to familiar levels and participate in time trials; nice visual style.
Cons: lack of own, original ideas.