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Kozu (Xbox 360) artwork

Kozu (Xbox 360) review


"Kozu is one of THOSE games that pop up on XBLA in droves; itís a duel stick shooter that we should really be more pissed at Geometry Wars for popularising. We could try really hard to pretend that Kozu isnít the latest contender in the homebrew developerís favourite genre choice, but your denial would have to be measured in galaxies to overcome the sheer volume of evidence to the contrary. So, letís not. Letís just talk about how Kozu is an okay little game, but not one to reach the loft heights preset by the likes of Z0MBIES and Zombie Estate."




Trying to find the woods through the trees.


Kozu is one of THOSE games that pop up on XBLA in droves; itís a duel stick shooter that we should really be more pissed at Geometry Wars for popularising. We could try really hard to pretend that Kozu isnít the latest contender in the homebrew developerís favourite genre choice, but your denial would have to be measured in galaxies to overcome the sheer volume of evidence to the contrary. So, letís not. Letís just talk about how Kozu is an okay little game, but not one to reach the lofty heights preset by the likes of Z0MBIES and Zombie Estate.

It plays a lot more like the former than the latter; Kozu is set within a fixed perimeter where strange doodle-like monsters warp in and try their best to kill your little ninja-clad character by barrelling into them. Thereís a limited amount of enemy variations, starting with small, round virus ones that move faster than the rest of the pack, but are weaker and stretching toÖ bigger rounder ones that see off a lot of damage, but move slowly.


Other enemies include small rectangular ones that live within the middle ground, and large square ones that split into the small, fast circular ones when slain. Theyíve a simplistic hand-drawn quality, set against a sketchbook background with strolling kanji simply because Japanese characters look cool. Itís chic cheap, complete with a layer that introduces page creases and damaged film lines while destroyed foes go out with a graphite pencil smudge and a bubble of points.



You can play locally with up to four further ninja who fire spinning canes of death from outstretched arms, or, in a commendable bit of fiddly XNA programming, take things online to join in with complete strangers. Hereís where the praise starts to crumble away, though; Iíve yet to find an active game to jump into, and, even in the company of localised friends, Kozu simply does not stand up to the benchmark set by the pre-established shooters already offered on the Indie service.

It lacks the customisation other games have produced. Offered up are only five powers to slay the army of doodles, including your weak starting weapon. Other variations never stroll outside the unexpected. You can dual wield the same starting gun, or even pick yourself up a three way. The other two are a slow moving flame globe that explodes against foes, dishing out splash damage, and an oversized spinning oblong with a long recharge time that scythes through anything, dishing out one-hit kills.

The last on the list is head and shoulders better than the rest.


The reason for this is just how easy it is to back yourself into a corner with this weapon and weather the storm. The slow reload time will cause the odd problem, but the ability to destroy waves at a time means only enemies warping inside your range are going to cause you any problems. Itís these warp-ins that will ultimately discourage you from a more active tactic. Moving anywhere other than the outskirts of the arena means that you can come foul of a random enemy entering the scene, and suffer the first of many cheap deaths.


Though you have some warning about when someone is going to warp in and attempt to kill you, itís far too small and gives no time to adjust. Back-pedalling from a huge swarm of enemies presents less fear of being overwhelmed, but of stumbling into a newly-arrived target you have neither the time nor room to dodge. The borders provide some reprieve; nothing ever spawns there, but it needs careful navigation. The arena is seemingly lined with invisible pinball bumpers and knocking against them throws you back into the mix.

Itís a good way to try and keep people from staying on the outskirts shooting in, but, unfortunately, itís the only way youíre going to get ahead. Youíll have to take the risks of running through the danger to score a weapon upgrade, but a well-armed player can survive countless waves just by digging in where the doodles canít get at your back, and launch scything overkill at them as they advance.

Good ideas continue, like the ability to drop a slow, staggering bomb issued from behind, meaning to aim it right, you have to be at you most vulnerable, with your back to the hordes (or during a retreat to try and thin the chasing ranks) but the game presents little new as it ekes onwards though its infinite waves. Once the limited enemy types have all been introduced, theyíre revisited ad nauseam. Soon, you'll find yourself in that corner, resolved though you might be to roam, acting more as a stationary turret than a shadowy ninja drawn in strong pencil lines, wondering what will give out first: your will to continue or your wrist from constant analogue stick abuse.

Rating: 4/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 18, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Feedback

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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 18, 2010:

Curses! My plan for winning by default is foiled! Had I any hands, I would shake my fists at you!

Kidding, really. It's a great review! Nice one, Gary.

BTW, the first link ZOMBIES is dead.
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EmP posted December 18, 2010:

Sorry, bud. I do loathe giving judges an easy ride. Even if I have no chance with Jerec who's still bitter about the Metal Slug incedent.

Thanks for the link catch; it should work fine now.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 18, 2010:

;) No prob. I didn't expect to get this far with only one review. I thought there would have been two-four by now.
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jerec posted December 18, 2010:

Two or three more reviews today would be nice. But not from EmP or you, Joe. They need to be different writers.

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