â€œKit Ballard, a sassy new feline kick-ass heroine with attitude and pink hair!â€ screamed the press release from Atari / Krome Studios. You could almost utter an inward groan right there before youâ€™ve even picked up a joypad and started playing.
If you cast your mind back to the 16 Bit (and in particular the Megadrive era) youâ€™d fall over a side-scrolling cartoony actioner like this every couple of steps. Now gamers are more cautious about 2D side-scrolling action offerings, Blade Kitten feels quite fresh and new at first glance.
Picked out in smooth-scrolling cel-shaded clobber, the art direction passes more than a cursory nod in the direction of bonkers Japanese anime series like Tank Police or Project A-KO but the developers are Australian, so youâ€™ll see a heavy handed western slant to everything too.
Kitâ€™s mission begins as a vital piece of hacking hardware is stolen from her by a plummy-sounding bad girl who seems to be channelling Lara Croft (voice wise, at least). Giving chase, Kit finds her a slippery customer and soon finds herself on the wrong side of law enforcement agents on Hollow World, an alien planetoid chock full of bizarre characters and enemies.
Thankfully Kit is armed to the teeth with a floating sword that can hack through lines of enemies with ease, and later on in your initial foray into Hollow World she also picks up a nifty little buddy called Skiffy who can leap into and damage security systems and machinery scattered throughout the gameâ€™s 19 levels.
She can also call on a rideable mount (called a â€˜nootâ€™). Noots are handy because theyâ€™re fast, and can crash through rubble and solid objects to clear a route through specific parts of each level.
Previously known for Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (a character that appears as an unlockable costume for Kit in this game), Krome Studios have thrown a heady mix of comedy and visual chaos together and the results have a tendency to feel a little hit and miss on occasion.
One of the main problems I had with the game stems from the weird floaty and imprecise camera systems that sway around drunkenly trying to keep up with Kitâ€™s impressive athletics. If youâ€™re dashing through a level, or hanging from a ceiling trying to access hidden goodies, the camera seems to â€œloseâ€ Kit from time to time.
Thereâ€™s a neat little trick used to give the game a little more depth though. Some platform elements automatically â€œcut awayâ€ as you walk behind them. It seems odd that the developers took so much trouble over a tiny detail like that but didnâ€™t tighten up the camera controls a little more to further enhance the gameâ€™s speed and smooth scrolling.
Combat largely takes place with the aid of Kitâ€™s array of floating bladed weaponry. Her sword can be controlled for distance throws or just used in short range melee attacks and slashes. It can also act as a â€œkeyâ€ to activate certain switches and other level elements, and can even act as a solid anchor for Kit to cling to when her footholds get slippery or unstable.
There are a lot of great ideas and clever little touches in Blade Kitten and itâ€™s obvious that Krome Studios got a big kick out of putting the game together. Longevity is provided by the ability to upgrade Kitâ€™s abilities, spend money on new costumes for her as well as grab weapon enhancements (which you will definitely need to do in later levels where the robotoid goons infesting Hollow World get a little tougher).
I couldnâ€™t get on with the camera system and the faux-anime setting becomes a bit too sugary sweet and saccharine as time passes, meaning that you become less and less interested in Kitâ€™s plight as you play. The odd thing about Blade Kitten is that it falls the wrong side of a well-trodden line where innuendo and cheeky put downs, and sexy female protagonists can strike a chord with gamers (as in a game like Bayonetta) or they can end up grating and irritating the heck out of people after a short length of time (as in this).
There are 19 levels, scattered with some fairly well structured puzzles, and it seems this will be the first of an intended episodic structure for future Blade Kitten games. Alas, poor Kitty, isnâ€™t quite cool enough to be cult, and the game canâ€™t quite pull itself up by its bootstraps playability-wise either. Not completely hideous, but definitely a galaxy away from being an essential purchase.