Krome Studios is no amateur when it comes to the video game industry. Their list of titles is pretty impressive; games such as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Spyro can be found on their resume. But, with all that experience, does Blade Kitten bring enough to the table to hold its own among the other highly praised titles?
Blade Kitten follows the story of Kit Ballard, a half human, half cat bounty hunter. Her journey begins as she attempts to track down a troublemaker on the planet Hollow Wish. With her animal buddy, a flying monster that looks incredibly like Stitch from the Disney movie, Kit unearths a sinister scheme and a dark past about the planet and its inhabitants. And that's about it. The story is loose without much meaning. At one point, you'll find yourself fighting one group of people only to find yourself fighting WITH them in the next level and then against them again in the following level; the exposition never really makes it clear why.
Krome created this to be an episodic game, and Episode 1 is what they've released with Episode 2 coming soon (no release date yet). The dialogue is exceptionally cheesy and the writing for Kit is full of annoying teen whining and sarcasm. The lines are delivered awkwardly, and there isn't much transition to any of the story elements. The cliffhanger at the end is poorly handled and extremely abrupt. Characters are introduced out of nowhere while existing characters seem to be completely forgotten. Players will find that the only thing they care about is running through a level hacking and slashing with their sword. The release of Episode 2 may alleviate some of these issues, but having to pay more to find out may not seem too appealing.
But what about the gameplay? Blade Kitten is a 2.5D platforming adventure game with a lot of brawler elements added in. However, unlike Little Big Planet where three different planes of movement can be accessed, Blade Kitten only offers one. The extra .5D is referring to the dimensional background scenery, none of which can be accessed by Kit directly.
The controls are fairly simple: jump, attack, and climb. Kit's controls are augmented with the addition of the Stamina bar, which allows Kit to jump, attack, and climb faster. The mechanics are nothing new as there are many games that have done this before. The only slight addition is that the climbing is context sensitive. For example, if you run off a ledge, Kit should just fall. However, if you creep, she should try to climb down. It works in theory, but it can be quite buggy sometimes.
The levels are designed to allow for maximum exploration; it's very similar to the old school Metroid games with each stage having multiple platforms that can be explored. There are chests to collect, money to find that allows for equipment and health upgrades, and other various items that are "crucial" to the story, but none are necessary to complete the game for any reason other than 100% completion.
The controls are fairly clean and simple, but the jumping and climbing mechanics can be a little glitchy and frustrating at times; Kit might not grab onto a wall or may double jump when she's only supposed to single jump. The movement is fast and can take a little getting used to, but once the initial shock wears off, players will find themselves jumping and moving around gracefully. Playing straight through the game, Blade Kitten lasts about 3-5 hours. For players who want to take care of achievements, collecting items and fully exploring each level, the game will run around 6-10 hours, but many of the achievements are quite excessive.
The presentation of the game is both impressive and disappointing. The character design is reminiscent of the Zelda: Wind Waker art style, or more recently, Castle Crashers. It works well and the animation is smooth and consistent. The background renderings are based more around a 3 dimensional design, which, on its own looks well rendered and full of detail. However, when these two art styles come together, they feel out of place; the two design concepts seem to clash with one another. It cheapens the detail of the background and causes the character animation to feel off or out of place.
The voice acting of Kit was funny at first, but became frustrating and annoying; it was as though the part of Kit was being written for a member of the Spice Girls. The secondary characters are much more tolerable and well executed, but alongside the lousy exposition and bad transitions, its full potential is never realized. The music, however, is well done; the melodies are catchy and memorable, and it underscores the action on screen quite well. The execution and performance of some of the tracks are a little sloppy, but to the untrained ear, it won't affect the concentration of the player. The sound design is well done and appropriate for the style of the game.
Blade Kitten is quite simply a game that doesn't justify its price tag. The story is difficult to follow, has no flow and the writing is sub par. The voice acting is also dry, unoriginal, and annoying. The gameplay is enjoyable though and can offer players the chance to explore a new world, albeit a crudely fashioned and mismatched world. But when you consider that there is almost no replay value and that the controls don't always work as intended, Blade Kitten just doesn't live up to the billing.