Y'know what's great? Life sims. As someone who's been playing a lot of Stardew Valley lately, I have certainly grown to appreciate a game with a gentle, meandering pace. I have become accustomed to losing myself in a quiet world full of tranquil music, gardening and the occasional fishing trip. Kamiko is not like that. Kamiko is the opposite of that.
Kamiko is a Skipmore exclusive for the Nintendo Switch that plays like a hybrid of Dark Souls and The Legend Of Zelda by way of a vintage arcade cabinet on speed. It's fast, it's fluid and filled to the brim with demons, magic, swords and more demons. A frenetic beauty of a game, Kamiko demonstrates just how exciting life would be if we lived in feudal Japan and worked as freelance demon hunter priestesses using magical weapons sourced from some dodgy bloke hanging about at the local Shinto temple. You know, The Dream.
Alright, let's catch our breath for a moment and get down to business, shall we?
How To Kamiko
Taking on the familiar top-down format of the original NES The Legend Of Zelda, the object of the game is to open up each of the four Torii (gates) to progress to the level's boss, give it a well deserved biff on the bonce, and shuffle on to the next level. To do this requires SP, which I think means Soul Points? SP is obtained by defeating enemies. The more SP you have, the further you can progress in the level. Simples.
Everything you need to progress will require varying amounts of SP, with the gates themselves costing 100 SP to open. There are also various chests which can contain anything from health and SP capacity upgrades to keys and special orbs to open doors. Enemies each drop 1 SP, which sounds like an irritatingly small amount but there is a handy combo multiplier that'll let you rack up large numbers of SP relatively quickly. Still, you're going to want to kill a lot of enemies because, you know, it's fun to pass divine justice on a squishy demon's fat face.
Of course, before you do all this, you'll need to choose a character, and Kamiko provides three playable ladies: Yamato, Uzume, and Hinome. Yamato swings her sword in snappy, close-quarters combat and can rattle off a series of nifty combos to clear the screen in an instant. Uzume wields a bow and arrow which permit a ranged assault on the hoard. Hinome is a very effective mix who commands both a weird magic boomerang thingy and a dagger. Each lady has an additional special move which can wipe out an entire enemy dance troop before they've had time to pop it or lock it.
Simple Yet Satisfying
So, it isn't the most complicated setup in the world, but you'd be challenged to find its straightforwardness anything other than refreshing. The gameplay has a well-rounded, arcade charm about it and the music fits neatly with the overall feel.
It's a short but sweet experience with a full play-through lasting about an hour. The play styles offered by the different characters do a lot to change the feel of each run, however, which could easily motivate the average player to beat the game with all three priestesses. This brings the game's length up to a more robust three hours — a decent amount of entertainment for the price of a sandwich and a soda. Besides, size isn't everything, I've been assured.
Gotta Go Fast!
Alternatively, you can go the other way and attempt to beat the game as quickly as possible. The fact that there is an option in the game's menu to display a level timer hints at Kamiko's desire to cater to the speed-run crowd. Blazing through each area with the character of your choice (Yamato for the win), dispatching waves of enemies before polishing off the final boss in five minutes flat will definitely appeal to your inner high-score junkie.
Admittedly, Kamiko isn't perfect. It has more than its fair share of frame-rate issues, with noticeable lag cropping up whenever the screen gets too busy. And the screen gets too busy a lot, with hoards of enemies all vying to boop you on the snoot. There isn't really any excuse for a retro-style game running as poorly as Kamiko has a tendency to do, and on the Nintendo Switch no less. However, this is by no means a deal-breaker, and these issues seem predominantly isolated to the initial levels for reasons known to neither man nor mouse. The reality is this game plants itself so firmly in your affections it's easy to overlook its flaws; a fact my six complete runs in the past 72 hours pays homage to.
Practically Perfect In Many Ways
To conclude, Kamiko is a welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch's rather thin library. Its entertaining brand of high-octane, arcade-esque action is highly addictive and well suited to its bright aesthetic and chirpy soundtrack. It has its flaws, but they don't interfere with the gaming experience excessively.
A pleasant Indie amuse-bouche to cleanse the palate between meaty AAA titles, I feel confident that come December I could be declaring Kamiko one of my games of the year.
Are you a speed-run nut? Tell us about your favourite short but sweet title in the comments below!