Kaze and the Wild Masks manages to hit a decent balance between old-school, nostalgia-driven platforming, and controls that feel more in-line with modern gaming. The developer Vox Game Studio claims to have combined their favourite childhood games to make the game, and the signs of this influence are pretty damn clear.
The clearest is possibly Sonic. You play as an anthropomorphic animal, in this case a rabbit. You jump on enemies heads, run through levels and have to collect different special ‘gem-like’ objects in each level. There are other clear influences from 90’s era platformers too, such as overworld maps and different themed lands. Truly the influences are worn on the games sleeve.
Steeped in Nostalgia
It’s easy for a game like Kaze and the Wild Masks to fall into the trap of nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia. Indeed there are a few pitfalls that the game doesn’t manage to avoid, but for the most part the game is an excellent experience. It manages to capture what was fun and enjoyable about 90s platformers, without failing to bring something new to the table.
Fortunately the game has much smoother controls, and much better game feel than any game from the 90s manages to have. It’s quick and easy to jump between platforms, onto ropes and ladders and even to string together bouncing on enemies heads to reach hidden places.
Overall the gameplay and graphics feel much more like a modern game, presented through a lens of 90s nostalgia. Much better than a 90s era platformer with shoehorned modern elements and clunky design.
A Single Pitfall
Unfortunately there is a single pitfall that Kaze and the Wild Masks does fall into, and it’s the same pitfall that lots of ‘nostalgia’ games fall into. It uses a lives system.
Obviously when used correctly a lives system doesn’t make a game worse, and the damage to Kaze’s potential is minimal. You start out with 6 lives and can find many more in levels, so game over are rare. Even if you do get a game over you only have to start each level over again, not the entire area.
Regardless of how minimal the damage the use of lives just seems pointless. It’s not only a weak punishment but a useless one. At most it sets you back a few minutes and is that one left-over of the coin-op era that the game just doesn’t seem to be able to shift.
Something to Look Forward Too
No matter which minor annoyances might niggle at the gameplay, Kaze and the Wild Masks has a lot of potential. Pretty much anyone who played a platformer in the 90s will find something enjoyable here, and that’s not to even mention just how bloody good the game looks!
It’s a beautiful, smooth platformer. While we’ve seen perfect version of the 8-bit era reproduced in games like Shovel Knight and now it’s the 16-bit era’s time to truly shine. No game has yet captured the feeling of that particular era quite right just yet. Hopefully Kaze will go on to show us all how it’s done when it comes out next year.