Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if the samurai of yore had access to modern technology? What the about the polar opposite; modern technology with access to ancient Japanese weaponry. Luckily for you, TurtleBlaze has the answers to your very particular questions in their latest title, Kunai.
Set in a world where the human race faces extinction from powerful robots of our own creation led by the ruthless A.I. Lemonkus. Kunai follows the story of the chosen one, a tablet with software infused with the spirit of an ancient warrior, the only being in existence with the strength and training capable of taking down Lemonkus and freeing Earth from its wrath. The hero, known as Tabby, is essentially a ninja minicomputer, the epitome of a sword-swinging iPad, but don't let that fool you otherwise it'll be the last assumption you ever make.
Designed as a Metroidvania, Kunai is a 2D single-player story driven experience that features lots of exploration and combat. Taking place on Earth, Kunai features a freely explorable overworld that's traversable at any point, assuming you have the necessary gear to access new locations, which are unlocked by progressing the storyline. Spanning the world are many different locations each with their own style and witty computing-based name. One of our favourites was the Crypto Mines, known for its dangerous lava flows and deep tunnels. Oh, and no you won't find any bitcoin there.
As for the gear itself, Kunai offers multiple unique items for Tabby's software. These tools or weapons are either ancient Japanese in design or the complete opposite, edging closer to tools of mass destruction. Irrelevant of their manufacturing era, they all excel in reducing enemy robots to a measly pile of circuits and microchips.
To begin with, you're presented with the katana, a powerful blade with the added ability to reflect projectiles as well as heal on hits. This weapon is the bread and butter of Tabby's arsenal, as it has the broadest degree of uses as well as a degree of simplicity that makes it easier to master. Every piece of equipment after the katana is unlocked through the storyline, with the next-in-line being kunai. These are essentially grapple-ropes that allow Tabby to climb and swing from most surfaces, and even stun certain enemies with the right contact.
Further on in the story, you will also unlock jump boots to allow double jump, charged shuriken's to open electrical doors and stun enemies, SMGs to unleash a hail of fire at foes, as well as the ability to glide by firing downwards, a dash to evade and move through thin walls, and even the rocket launcher, a tool of mass destruction that can turn even the largest structures into pebbles. Each of these weapons/tools has their uses in and out of combat, something frequently used across the world of Kunai.
The combat feels great. It brings fluidity to melee attacks whilst simultaneously allowing firearms and projectiles to cut through swarms of foes in the right instances. In general, when dealing with run of the mill enemies, it doesn't feel difficult or overwhelming, instead, it captures the true power of Tabby. With this being said, being overconfident can punish you and will likely cause you to falter.
Enemies themselves span a wide variety of designs, from humanoid wannabe samurai through to robotic wildlife, and there's even an occasional mythological twist. Each type of foe features their own attack style and weapon, and every combat sequence requires a unique approach. One of our favourite enemy types is the heavy turret, which sprays bullets at Tabby and cannot be hurt by any means other than their own projectiles reflected back at them.
On the topic of enemies, Kunai also features multiple boss encounters. These bring powerful, unique enemies into battle, each usually requiring the use of a recently acquired piece of equipment to defeat. The first that you come across is a robot called the Garbage Collector, who uses a large scythe and spawned enemies to push Tabby to its limits. One of the largest problems with the boss encounters in Kunai revolves around their difficulty. For the most part they feel way too easy, sometimes even more so than regular combat, which is an issue considering they are supposed to be one of the most challenging aspects of the game. Bosses also lack health bars, meaning you have no way of knowing how the fight is progressing, which is a little annoying if anything.
Aside from just fighting, Kunai also offers the opportunity to collect wearable cosmetics in the form of hats, which are dropped by bosses and found in lootable containers hidden throughout the world. In total, there are over 40 to find, ranging from simple bowlers, all the way to horned Viking helmets. These are purely cosmetic items and offer zero in-game advantage, however, they are fun to wear and make the Kunai experience a little bit more personal.
On the subject of customising Tabby, Kunai offers the ability to upgrade your weapons, bringing new abilities and ways to utilise them. Doing so costs coins, a collectable currency dropped from defeated enemies and found in lootable chests that can be spent at the TabOS store. Spending coins requires a trip to a working WiFi router in-game, where you can access the TabOS storefront. That means finding an area Earl the WiFi guy has visited and setting up an accessible broadband port. On top of the TabOS store, you can also upgrade your katana at the forge, which becomes available in the later portions of the story.
One of the more eye-catching aspects of Kunai is its art direction as it features a limited palette, where each area has its own colour scheme. This minimalist design captures the essence of retro, making the futuristic world feel aged in its own unique way. The sound direction also conforms to this style, using lots of 16-bit references to make Kunai seem even more classically inspired/
In summary, Kunai is an enjoyable 2D Metroidvania that brings the way of the samurai into the digital era for a bizarre combat-focused experience. The fighting and exploration that the title is built around is largely fun, however, the limited number of alternative options can make the game feel a little lacking in places. That said, the enemy variety, unique cosmetic options and retro design make Kunai a worthwhile trip for any wannabe ninja calculators out there.