Katana Zero is a 2d platformer developed by Askiisoft and published by Devolver Digital. For those unaware Devolver Digital is a publisher know for releasing games with a retro pixel aesthetic and/or incredibly visceral gameplay, see games like Hotline Miami, Serious Sam, and Shadow Warrior. Katana Zero checks both those boxes off featuring fluidly animated sprites and a lot of brutal violence.
Katana Zero focuses on the exploits of an unnamed assassin with the ability to manipulate time and predict the future. These powers come from a rare drug know as Chronos that is being supplied to the assassin by his boss. However it soon becomes obvious the drug has nasty side affects that become more clear as the story progresses. While the basic idea of the story is simple it soon grows into a complex plot about gang wars, government conspiracies, and super soldier experiments. It can honestly get rather confusing especially when the idea of time jumps and hallucinations but it is also surprisingly engaging.
Gameplay wise Katana Zero is a 2-D platformer. The goal of most of the levels is to kill every enemy in the room and make your way to your target. You die in one hit, but the levels are usually short to make up for that. You’re character is armed with a sword and can also pick up various objects to throw at enemies like bear bottles, lambs, or sticky bombs. You have a doge roll you can use to avoid attacks, a short ranged dash, a wall jump and use your sword to deflect bullets. Finally you have the ability to slow down time for a few seconds, which you could use to easily strike down enemies or avoid of a hail of bullets.
The main selling point of the game is the fast paced gaming. While it is incredibly easy to screw up many times it is insanely satisfying when you finally clear the room and the game replays that run before the next level. You always feel capable despite the odds and while slowing down time is useful later levels challenge your mastery over the it in a way that feels very natural. In fact there was one section near the end that I kept dying at, when I realized my problem was my overreliance of slowing down time, instead I focused on dashing and dodge rolling and a few tries later I beat it. It’s the kind of game where all of your moves are required to successfully beat the levels and there is nothing sweeter when you finally get through with a perfect combination of dashing, dodging, bullet deflecting, wall jumps, and slowing down time.
There are only two main problems I have with the game and that is usually when they try to shake up the mechanics. The first is an early chapter where you have to sneak into a prison. The problem is the game is not really suited for stealth and whenever you die the guard’s patterns change making it insanely hard to get a read on their movements. Fortunately despite your boss constantly nagging you about how important it is not to be detected you can still get caught and fight your way through, the only negative affect is your boss chastising you after the level. Another example is a level later on when one of your targets escapes via motorcycle and you pursue him on another motorcycle. Despite being on a bike it feels slow mainly because it focuses less on chasing the guy down and more taking out gang members who constantly surround you with their motorcycles. Finally there is a level where you play as another character with the same ability of slowing down time, but he can also perform a dash attack while time is slowed down, which can take out groups of enemies. The problem is this character does not have a dodge roll and has to recharge every time you slow down time. While it is only a minor change it feels like it’s enough to throw you off.
Fortunately these annoyances are only in three of the games levels. As a whole, Katana Zero is an incredibly solid package. Its focus on fast pace up close action makes it incredibly satisfying when you finish a level and the story is really interesting though the ending may leave you wanting.
Katana Zero: Drugs, Blood, and Swords
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