The introductory number in the planned two-part ballad of Kit Ballard wraps up with an obligatory boss confrontation, pitting the feline bounty hunter against a mech suit aided adversary. Both the action and pattern is familiar enough for the platforming set, but the sequence is a significant stab at pulling more of the game’s unique qualities together than the previous stages manage to otherwise muster.
Using the shield to survive the laser assault, jumping to grab the ledges overhead as the platform beneath Kit’s feet is destroyed, and then finally using her blade to pull the mech closer for a quick strike, the play of it brings together many of Kit’s abilities, something very much lacking in the buildup to that moment.
At this point players are then left to wonder where it might improve with another dose on the horizon as episode one comes to an end.
Kit’s an agile cat-girl, able to grab and hang from walls and overhead ledges, perform wall jumps, deploy a shield, and swing her giant sword at enemies, which floats at hands reach and readily strikes at far away opponents.
Pulling off some of her moves can feel jittery at times, most often in the way Kit doesn’t quite flex to her world. There’s plenty of sway from her and the objects filling the environment, but there’s also a very stiff feeling to the way she controls and moves.
The smoothest bit of action is found in her blade, which can be sent flying at enemies while Kit runs and jumps with the press of a button. Mind you there’s not a great sense of control to it, functioning more like a straight line boomerang. This episode offers four swords players can eventually buy, which vary on a ratio of speed and strength.
There’s a rhythm to Kit’s song that plays like a by-the-numbers tune, the hack and slash through stages is only broken with bits of forced running and a few rides on a pink dinosaur. Kit’s world is vibrant, filled with some daring design ideas that are oddly refreshing and certainly deliver a sense of the comic material that spawned them, but simply provide a backdrop for very familiar action.
The mainline stages are opened with platforms, secrets, and plenty of money to collect, which on their own come across fine, but struggle to compliment Kit’s potential. Good ideas lack emphasis when waves of soldiers beg to simply be sliced away with a rapid tapping of the slash button. The repetitive action undermines any need to explore the options available, and eventually leaves all the game’s opponents to blend together into a blur of flailing bodies.
What you get is a game that feels like it’s fighting to figure itself out, with a bit of polish lacking in the way it wants to be a straight-forward side-scroller, but also a narrative driven game tapping the comic source material. It can be hard to absorb as the cut-scenes jump around with a story that feeds seemingly random missions attempting to tie a larger narrative together in the final moments.
There’s potential for something better here, but at present just not enough to justify it to more than a small niche that dig the style and overarching concept. Replay value is a major factor, there’s enough core control fun to encourage going back to try slicing different swords through soldiers, but the mission/objective breakdown denies a certain freedom in playing around within this world.
In the end, there’s some very open concepts oddly married with a tightly scripted direction, conveying a story that doesn’t always entirely make sense. I felt a bit like I was playing a game reminiscent of original PlayStation experiments – interesting, but lacking an overall sense of purpose beyond the initial idea of a pink-haired-sword-wielding-cat-girl.
I’m still going to tell you that Blade Kitten is an interesting title, though visual charm and a bit of sword tossing isn’t enough to spin a complete experience.
It isn’t hard to see how the game could improve with another episode, but at present Blade Kitten’s more interesting bits are priced high at $14.99 when considering both the meat on this release’s bones and the competition already on XBLA and PSN.
Blade Kitten: Episode One
Developer – Krome Studios
Publisher – Atari
System – PlayStation 3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE), Windows PC (PlayStation 3 / PSN Reviewed)
Release Date – September 22, 2010
Price – $14.99, 1200 Microsoft Points
*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review