Publisher: Flyhigh Works
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Price: $4.99 USD
Although it released the day before Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Kamiko is a generously priced eShop title that should not be slept on.
The retro-style action-adventure game is rooted in Japanese Shinto beliefs, in which the player chooses between three unique Kamiko priestesses and solves puzzles in order to unlock a series of magnetic gates, called Torii. Behind the gates, of course, are mildly challenging boss encounters.
Kamiko is incredibly light in the story department, consisting of two minor cutscenes that bookend the rest of the action. I don’t feel the game needed more story than what was present, however, because the combat and exploration were both satisfying.
Each of the game’s three playable characters has their own unique weapon, which offers a noticeable difference in playstyles. One uses a magical bow, which increases the number of arrows fired and their gradual spread with each consecutive press of the button. This was my favorite playstyle since I’m a coward and prefer the false sense of security that comes with attacking from afar. Another Kamiko feels nearly identical to Link’s 16-bit iteration but delivers a series of combo slashes and a continuous whirlwind attack that turns her into a blender o’ death. The final priestess is a bit like Captain America, using a one-handed sword for basic melee attacks in addition to hurling her shield for ranged damage.
Combat is executed well for a game of this calibre, with just enough randomness in the enemy placement and in their variety to refrain from becoming a boring, repetitive slog. Many of the enemies that spawn are of the trash variety, which simply exist to be slashed down, but others hurled fireballs and other projectiles that kept me on my toes.
The priestesses each have a unique special ability as well, which is unleashed by simply charging the attack button à la The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. These devastating attacks, like the bow user’s barrage of homing arrows, can make short work of the pixelated fiends but require a spirit-like resource that erupts from slain enemies. This same resource, however, is also used to activate gates and solve many of the game’s environmental puzzles.
Balancing this resource ensured that I never lackadaisically activated my “oh shit!” button since I didn’t want to stumble upon a precious health upgrade later on and have to retrace my steps in order to farm respawning enemies. It was also an incentive to keep my combo multiplier rolling, which seemed to amplify the collection process.
Kamiko is aesthetically pleasing, displaying a well-made pixel universe that exists somewhere between the original Legend of Zelda and something like Hyper Light Drifter. It’s damn beautiful, with an OST to match.
Each of the game’s four levels are distinguished mazes full of environmental puzzles and hidden upgrades. Whether you’re exploring sweltering lava caves or an overgrown, once industrialized city, you’re always in search of four shrines that need to be activated before the stage’s boss can be challenged. And challenge you they will.
SKIPMORE’s adventure presents nothing overly taxing or groundbreaking, but having this kind of familiar, formulaic adventure in the palm of my hands just felt so good on the Switch. Kamiko never had a chance to overstay its welcome either, as it’s only about an hour long. With 2017 being uncharacteristically packed with stellar releases, this bite-sized adventure fit perfectly in between them as a delicious palate cleanser.
I honestly didn’t expect much from a $5.00 eShop release that I’d never heard of before, but I was taken aback by the game’s unexpected quality. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, but many of the cheaper digital releases for consoles are priced as such for a reason. Often a bad one.
Kamiko may have unfortunately released the day before Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but it’s early enough in the Nintendo Switch’s life cycle that it doesn’t run the risk of being buried in the eShop under swarms of competing indies. It’s definitely one of the biggest surprises of 2017 thus far, and I highly encourage anyone out there with a Switch to take the $5.00 gamble. It’s worth every penny, and then some.
So, where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I spent a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if the game is worth your time and money.
Full disclosure: This review was done using a Nintendo Switch copy of Kamiko that I paid for myself. While I’m sometimes given games to critique, I pride myself on providing an unbiased review to fellow consumers, along with constructive feedback to hard working developers and publishers. Whether or not I pay for a game is irrelevant.