It’s a tale as old as time. A frog, a cat, some guns, and a whole boat load of enemies. Classic.
Okay so maybe it’s not your typical story but Studio Pixel’s latest effort Kero Blaster is an incredibly well-done but above all fun action platformer that was an absolute joy to play through. You play as Frog, the Head of Custodial Sciences at the aptly named Cat and Frog Inc., as he attempts to clear up some mysterious mishaps at the company teleporters.
One thing that must be said for Kero Blaster is that it is unapologetically retro. 8-bit visuals and a 2D scrolling style took me right back to the days of playing Super Mario Bros Deluxe on my Gameboy Colour. Now I’m not saying it’s on a par with Mario but the feel is undoubtedly similar and for me fed into the nostalgia factor which made me want to review this game in the first place. Unfortunately for me Kero Blaster did not hand out the same level of crippling difficulty in terms of platforming that I’ve come to expect from great titles in the genre. There are some sections which require very precise jumps and use of the environment, but they are too few and far between to make the game as difficult as it could be. Thankfully however the simpler sections never got boring because of the sheer variety of enemies the game throws at you.
As you travel through each stage enemies change depending on the landscape you’re in. Arid deserts have snakes and tumbleweed, snowy mountains have snowmen and irritable refrigerators. Seriously. Not that this a bad thing in any way, the array of attacks and movement styles of each enemy provides plenty of difficulty on its own and it can sometimes be hard to work out exactly how best to take on certain monsters. This becomes even more potent during the array of boss fights which you’ll find yourself in during each stage. Not only are they well designed and craftily difficult, they’re all unique requiring different tactics in order to beat them. Which brings me on to one of my favourite aspects of Kero Blaster, the guns.
Given the genre the game falls into you might be forgiven for suggesting that Kero Blaster is unlikely to require much tactical thought. But you’d be wrong. As you defeat bosses and advance through the game Frog gains access to range of different weapons, including fire and bubble bombs, all of which have their own distinctive strengths and weaknesses. As a result maxing out one weapon and blasting your way to the finish line isn’t really an option and the game encourages (re: forces) you to constantly switch up your arsenal and adapt to different hazards. There is also a mechanic which allows you to spend coins to upgrade your weapons, to kill faster, and your health, to stay alive longer. Collecting coins is slow at first but later levels deliver masses of currency to ensure you can stay ahead of the curve. Even if you have to play through a couple of stages more than once after getting obliterated by the final boss, coins mercifully rollover so the more you die the more money you get. Seems fair.
Visually, the game is a delight. Old 8-bit style graphics when combined with the very nicely done retro style music delivers so much charm that it is very difficult for me to find fault with the graphics or sound. They are unashamedly old school. But that’s just all part of the appeal. I even occasionally find myself humming along to the game as I go further into it, because, somewhat annoyingly, the tunes are catchy as hell.
In terms of weaknesses Kero Blaster does have a couple. The game is far too short, with maybe 7-8 hours of gameplay if you’re any good at action platformers. To be fair the game does try and remedy this by giving you access to a ‘Hard Mode’ once you’ve beaten it and speaking as someone who has yet to finish it on Hard I have to say that it is a welcome attempt to give the game a little more depth and replay value. Especially given that the mode is a whole other story separate from the main game. But even with this the game still falls a bit short of what I would expect. Controls can be a little ropey at times, being especially problematic when trying to stick a perfect jump and landing and deaths as a result of this (especially in Hard Mode) do feel a bit cheap.
Overall though Kero Blaster is a genuinely good quality action platformer. Admittedly the retro style may be a deterrent for some but if you’re into old school platformers and have been looking for something to scratch the itch, this is the game for you. Even if you aren’t, Kero Blaster has a lot to love despite its occasional shortcomings and is an absolute steal at just under a tenner. It will undoubtedly bring a smile to the face of any gamer who gives it the chance it deserves.
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