While I’m sure that the Nintendo Switch’s latest gift of pixel flamboyancy won’t be in the running for Game of the Year contention, Kamiko offers an incredibly fun, bite-sized rush of pixels to the brain at a price that is simply too tempting to pass up. While it will run you just under an hour’s worth of gameplay on your first playthrough, there’s plenty of incentive to return to the heat of the battle and explore three distinct hero classes – all for less than a cup of coffee.
Kamiko opens with little fanfare or ceremony – you are asked to pick from three character classes, all of which offer a benefit dissimilar to their counterparts. The three offerings are an all-female cast here, which is reminiscent of girl-powered anime of yesteryear. Yamato, the great sword wielding hero, Uzume, the stealthy bow drawer, and Hinome, the girl with an unorthodox armoury of brazen, boomerang shields and less than impressive daggers. Each class has its own distinct personality, and furthermore, definitively influences your style and plan for your run-up to each boss. While I preferred Uzume for her distancing, range based attack style, all three classes gave me something new to do on each of my three runs.
The core gameplay presented in Kamiko is purely that of many 16-bit pixel RPGs that we’ve seen before us, namely, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. However, RPG elements are spared here in favour of a hack-and-slash, puzzle based experience. Traversing the various landscapes presented to you objectively presents orbs, keys, buttons, levers and switches, all of which unlock points of interest, barge enemies or bloom your progress. While Kamiko is far from a difficult title, it did present challenges in some areas, namely while carrying orbs or keys, as carrying an item leaves you defenceless against the hordes of mysterious bugs, blobs, and sometimes, downright weirdness (a frog that shoots bubbles at you?).
Given Kamiko’s constant throwbacks to 16-bit era titles of the past, many of the issues you may find in top-down titles with shifting screens are apparent here. I found myself a little lost at times when navigating back to central areas, given the tight-knit mazes that are occasionally thrown your way. Re-generated enemies sometimes cause havoc, but as an old-school kind of guy, this seldom bothered me and I found myself embracing it in most of my playthrough. Overall, gameplay is smooth and uninterrupted, with essentially non-existent load times. I found small jitters of framerate, with the (very) occasional stutter, but is hardly noteworthy.
Graphics and Sound
Simple in its presentation but gorgeous in its execution, Kamiko is a colourful representation of a doomed underworld, summoned to the depths of evil, with each of the heroes being a shining light of hope. As a blended, pixeled arcade title, the blooming landscapes in each of the four levels presented contrast well, each presenting their individual theme. To the depths of lushing greenery in the Forest of Awakening, reminiscent of Game Freak’s Pokemon series, contrasted by the dark and weathered overtone of the Sunken Relics, presentation here is near-perfectly orchestrated as a homage to pixel art and game design alike. A coupling of catchy tunes, all themed to their stages, sound is well blended in Kamiko and is enjoyable while it lasts. Given such a pocket-sized playing time, the music is fast-paced, rhythmic, and spurs you on to conquer the shrines of the land.
Kamiko is a title that simply shouldn’t be looked over as a Nintendo Switch-exclusive, digital only title. With its bite sized gameplay perfect for on-the-go playthroughs, as well as its surprising replay value, Kamiko presents a $6.50 AUD offering that I’m hard pressed not to rave about. While it is not without it’s incredibly minor hiccups and my wishes for slightly longer stages, it’s a must-have for almost any Nintendo Switch owner – a respectable blend and blur of genres entails a highly enjoyable experience for any player.
Let’s Play Kamiko with Boosty