Capsule Review: Kamiko

A short and simple retro-styled game that feels like an essentialized homage to Zelda dungeons. As any of three shrine maidens, progress through a series of four levels defeating enemies and solving simple puzzles to reach and cleanse four gates which also act as save points. Once you’ve cleansed all four, fight a boss and proceed to the next level.

The story is very light, providing a simple context to your actions (demons are being bad - stop them) but little else. The pixel art, chiptune soundtrack, overhead view and two-buttons-plus-directions control scheme all create the feeling of a NES title, though modern capabilities of course mean everything looks and sounds better than it could have on that platform and the whole level can be smoothly explored without being cut up into separate screens.

The game is short, with each level likely to take somewhere around fifteen minutes your first time leading to a total play time of about an hour. Replayability comes from the different combat styles of the three characters, some hidden items to hunt for, and speedrunner-friendly recordkeeping of your best times. The levels do add a few minor mechanics over the course of the game, but you don’t gain any new abilities or have to rethink any of the core interactions, so I actually started to get a bit bored halfway through.

While I never actually died, I came close several times and it was often for frustrating reasons. Enemies spawn as you enter their area, often directly in front of you. They also respawn every time you re-enter that area - and that includes rooms that lock you in and force you to defeat a large number of enemies to leave. That can make it quite frustrating to backtrack through areas solving the puzzles, which you need to do more of as you proceed through the increasingly-convoluted levels. This would be less frustrating if defeated enemies occasionally dropped health, but since they don’t each level has infinite opportunities to get hurt and finite opportunities to recover. Also, every level has puzzles that require you to carry a key (removing your ability to attack or dash) to a lock without taking damage lest you drop the key and have to go back for a new one and start over. These have longer paths through more aggressive enemy spawns in the later levels, requiring you to avoid damage for longer from more difficult enemies and punishing you more if you fail near the end.

For me, the fact that the levels become slightly more complex and interesting as you go (the last level in particular features some tantalizing environmental clues about the world) was more than offset by the increase in frustration along the way. Someone less bothered by punishment-driven tension or more interested in finding their favorite combat style and perfecting their speedrun would have a better time.

I Stopped Playing When: I completed a single playthrough as Yamato. I did not try the other characters.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.