Easter has come and gone in a flash. I've consumed an unhealthy amount of chocolate and played a substantial amount of games. One that kept catching my eye on the store was Kaze and The Wild Masks, a lovely looking 2D platformer. After having played Balan Wonderworld for the past few weeks, I needed something to reignite my love for the platforming genre, and boy, did this game do it by the bucket load. What's even more exciting to find out is how this game looks and plays exactly like classic Donkey Kong games - but is available on Xbox for everyone to enjoy.
I'm still fairly early into Kaze and the Wild Masks, but its inspirations of the classic Nintendo franchise are immediately apparent. The stage based platformer contains all the classic tropes. Collecting letters that spell out Kaze's name, hidden bonus stages, and crossbows that act exactly the same as the barrels found in Donkey Kong. Even the tight, responsive controls garner the same feeling of the games its based upon, with a spinning attack and satisfying leaps onto enemies' heads to vanquish them. Yet despite all that, Kaze and the Wild Masks manages to build its own identity with a gorgeous world to explore.
Throughout levels, you'll find masks which give you unique abilities of other animals. For example, a shark mask turns you into an underwater menace, as you're able to torpedo through barrages of enemies. The creativity infused with each mask and its platforming challenges hasn't ceased to stop feeling inventive yet, and the difficulty is slowly ramping up. Much like the 90s platformers the game is based upon, Kaze and the Wild Masks can be challenging. For those who want something easier, however, there is a casual mode to reduce the difficulty.
Despite this, it never comes across as unfair. In fact, Kaze and the Wild Masks feels insanely polished with a fantastic control scheme that is both tight and responsive. Coming off the heels of Balan Wonderworld, it feels like night and day, and just goes to show that what makes a great platformer is the controls. Jumping, attacking, and even using multiple special abilities from the masks always feels natural, and within the first few seconds of playing the game, you'll be right at home with how intuitive everything feels. When the challenge ramps up, any failure never feels like a chore and is always the result of your own skill, making the pitch perfect platforming even more addictive when you just want "one more go".
I couldn't talk about this game without gushing over the art style. Oh my, it's gorgeous. The sprite work is masterful in every frame, and developer PixelHive Studios clearly understands the 90s homage it's playing to, whilst also ensuring it's colourful and vibrant enough to belong in a modern day setting. Not only that, but the design of Kaze herself and the numerous enemies she meets are charming, unique, and bursting with personality. Every frame feels like a perfect image to capture, which is a rare feat to pull off, but Kaze and the Wild Masks does so beautifully.
I'm excited to spend more time with the game, as it's quickly growing to be one of my favourites of the year. Games that draw heavy influences from another franchise often feel bogged down and lack any sort of creativity. The same can't be said here. Kaze and the Wild Masks perfectly understands the titles it's basing itself off, but infuses the right amount of character to give it its own personal touch. We'll never get a Donkey Kong title on Xbox, but honestly, this is arguably as good as any of those classic platformers so far.
Will you be checking out Kaze and the Wild Masks? Let us know in the comments below.