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Kamiko (Switch) artwork

Kamiko (Switch) review

"A brief indie adventure with enough strong points to warrant your attention, if you're tired of the mainstream."

There's not a whole lot to Kamiko, the new Switch game from Skipmore and Flyhigh Works, but what's there is generally good stuff. Couple that quality with a $5 price tag and you have the sort of downloadable title that--particularly this early in the console's life cycle--very possibly belongs in your personal library.

You have to like adventure games. That's one good prerequisite. And it doesn't hurt if you don't mind looking at something that's not as pretty as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and its ilk. Though the visual design in Kamiko effectively evokes a 2D retro vibe, "charmingly simple" can come as a bit of a shock to gamers who are used to something visually ambitious. Stages have relatively simple architecture, with a lot of boxes and simple objects (though the nature of some of those objects might tell a story, if you look closely). There's little real sense of wonder, but one area of a stage looks enough different from another portion that you should at least have a good idea where you are most of the time. And that's important, since you'll do a lot of wandering.

Kamiko (Switch) image

As the game begins, you choose one of three warrior sisters, who will become a wandering "Kamiko" that saves the world from darkness. Each hero is a very capable lass, with a different weapon discipline. Though I figured a broadsword or knife wielder would probably have the easiest time cutting through any foes I might encounter, I've always had a soft spot for ranged attacks. So the character I chose for my first run was the huntress, Uzume.

Playing as the huntress, I could fire a single arrow to hit an enemy, or I could keep mashing the button to set up a combo counter. This would produce a three-way shot, and if I followed up with another hit soon thereafter, I could keep it going until I ran out of foes to pelt. When the action got too frantic, I could also dash out of the way, which made most encounters manageable right from the start. It didn't take me long to get with the program, and then I was ready to start exploring in earnest. On a subsequent run, I got to know the lethal Hinome, who throws her shield as a powerful short-range projectile, then uses a dagger to cut up opponents until the shield returns. Yamato, the final sister, uses the aforementioned broadsword to slice and dice monsters at close range.

One of the things I don't like a lot about Kamiko is that enemies spawn again after you defeat them. I discovered this almost immediately. Let's say you wipe out a whole group and take a few steps in some other direction. The crew you just killed will likely be waiting for you when the time comes to backtrack. And they also appear quite abruptly, so that if you move too quickly, you'll probably run into one and take damage. Stages generally require you to crisscross them a few times, especially when you're first learning the lay of the land, which means you spend a lot of time battling the same few enemies and taking the occasional cheap hit and breaking apart vases or bushes for life-restoring crystals. In a lot of cases, you also have to carry an object of some sort, which prevents you from being able to attack (plus the object breaks if you take any damage), so the constantly reviving enemies do become an unavoidable irritant.

Kamiko (Switch) image

Kamiko features only four stages, and they all progress in the same way. You start by finding four statues that need to be activated, one in each approximate corner of an area. Once you activate all four, a portal appears that you can travel through to find a boss battle and clear the stage.

If you know your way through each of the individual stages, I don't think you'd have to spend more than 45 minutes or so on a run through the whole game. However, there are a few tricky areas where the developers decided to get cheap, perhaps in an attempt to make that initial run last considerably longer (in my case, nearly two hours). Some walls hide hidden passages, and there's a spot in the second level where the block you need to push to solve a puzzle is hidden behind an object in the foreground. Such sneaky design wouldn't be so bad, except its likely effect is to prompt the player to roam the level for several minutes, battling a bunch of grunts and never gaining any ground.

Kamiko (Switch) image

When you do finally make it to the boss battles, you'll find they're well designed. Each foe utilizes a few patterns, which you can exploit to persevere against odds that might initially seem overwhelming. You may not always grasp what you're supposed to do on the first attempt, but there wasn't a boss I had to battle more than a few times before I emerged victorious.

If you're looking for an ambitious open world game, or an adventure game to keep you busy even a mere 6 or 8 hours, Kamiko isn't the right choice. It's too brief to stump any experienced players, and likely too shallow to inspire most players of any skill level to return to it once they've finished it the first time. However, the game is priced quite reasonably and is different from a lot of the other stuff you'll currently find on the eShop, so maybe give it a shot if you're interested in experiencing something a little outside your comfort zone.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (May 03, 2017)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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