Katana Land

Awesome 2D ninja platforming action! Play as the Katana Kid and fight to save Katana Land from devious ninja's, hordes of the undead and demon bosses. Along the way help an old guy out, rescue your allies and save a princess from the fate of becoming a demon bride!!!

One of the best things I've bought for myself is a Conair Fabric Steamer. It makes all my clothes look great, which is good, because wrinkly clothing is enemy of gainful employment and success in dating women. Unfortunately for Katana Kid, Conair Steamers have yet to reach his home in Katana Land, and his bizarrely lumpy appearance is all the worse for it. Sure, he can iron his charcoal outfit I suppose, but who enjoys that? I sure don't, and my clothing never looked as good ironed as they do steamed. It's weird, too, because his unlockable partners Kyu Commando and Helbeard know how to dress; it's only the featured player who looks all a mess on the character select screen and on the cover. He really needs to lose a few squiggly lines or, if they're there for a reason, fix whatever horrible, disfiguring thing is going on with his jaw. While his in-game sprite looks fine, his portrait does not.

Poorly conceived portrait aside, Katana Kid is all right since we spend most of our time with him playing than staring at the cover, and his game is better for it. Katana Land is an excellent little platform action game, taking players across 12 levels of varied action. The variety is Katana Land's most impressive attribute, quickly moving from simple "kill 'em all" gameplay to moving things around, disabling traps, and more. The game also does achievements right, doling out medals for added challenges such as accomplishing a level's goal without killing any enemy. It's surprising to see an indie developer such as Kablammo Games sending players flying through its ninja platformer without any regard to repeat mission types to pad its length, because any of the individual level play styles would suffice for the duration of a single game. You'd expect to see at least palette swapped levels later on, mixing and matching the game types, spreading the challenge across multiple maps, but that day never comes. Kablammo should be commended for avoiding potential repetition by unnecessarily dragging things out, yet you wish that it hadn't since the game is good enough to sustain more action.

The action is enjoyable mainly because Katana Kid controls so wonderfully. He can slash enemies with his katana, throw out kunai, jump kick, and hang from ledges. His partners, who must be located during select levels to be playable, have similar skills with some tweaks. They're not just reskinned sprites, too, as Kyu Commando replaces Kid's kunai with arrows, which have a different range and trajectory to account for when using. Most everything feels fluid except for their basic leaping motion, oddly enough, which feels as if the game has momentarily placed the character under water. Kid and company's jump is noticeably stiffer than the rest of the casts' moveset, but it works fine and never becomes a burden to the smooth in-game combat. It's nothing to drop from a ledge, slash an enemy, charge up a jump slash while moving to the next, then leaping off to another platform, pelleting the ledge with arrows to take out the next threat.

As with most ninja games, enemy types can be cluttered with lookalike targets, but Kablammo included samurai, spirits, and undead for good measure. Four of the 12 levels are dedicated to boss battles, which while generally well done (the final boss goes down too easily) do eat up the short allotment of stages in Katana Land. Strip away these short boss intermissions, and you're left with an eight level game that is rather short if very enjoyable while it lasts. Katana Land can be completed in about an hour, less so if you ignore the medals for the slight extra challenge they bring. This is fine for an 80 point game and exactly what I'd expect and want out of Microsoft's console indie marketplace, but titles such as Applejack and Ninja360 with their 100 level adventures have me spoiled.

Although much shorter than the aforementioned indie games, Katana Land is a fine purchase. Nice artwork and coloring keep it looking fresh and the gameplay and design are about as good as you'd expect. It may not be at the top of the console's best platformers or action titles given the tough competition, but it does deserve a high place on any such a list. Maybe Katana Kid can use the experience gained here to come back stronger via a sequel with more levels, and I'm sure the quality of this release would have people waiting. Maybe he'll press his mask for the occasion, too.

February 13, 2012
February 3, 2012 | 80 points
Developer | Video | Download

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