I love old-school platformers and Kaze and the Wild Masks is a prime example of the genre so put on your best mask and let's jump to it.
Before getting to the review, I figured I'd provide a little inside peak at how I review games. Whenever I play an indie game, I have to decide whether to write a full or rapid-fire review of it. The latter are usually for simple games where I can describe most of what it offers in a paragraph. In other words, games that a quick glimpse at is all you need to decide whether it's worth playing or not. I figured Kaze and the Wild Masks would have been one such game because most indie platformers are easily summed up in a handful of sentences but after playing it, I must admit that it's such a fantastic example of the genre that I have to describe just how great it is in a full review.
With that out of the way, Kaze and the Wild Masks has you control the titular bunny-like hero Kaze on a quest to save her friend Hogo. You're introduced to its world via a lovely animated cutscene and once you start playing it, you'll be delighted that the in-game visuals are just as well animated with lively sprites and detailed environments that are quite picturesque. Your ears will also love the game world with its catchy soundtrack full of tunes that suit each level beautifully as well as satisfying sound effects that add oomph to every onscreen action. Overall, it's one of the best looking and sounding retro-inspired indie games that I've played in quite a long time.
When it comes to gameplay, Kaze and the Wild Masks has you run and jump through levels while hovering over chasms, spin-attacking any enemies that get in your way, and ducking to avoid danger. Although all of this isn't necessarily new, what makes the gameplay shine is just how much variety is packed into each level. The most notable example of this is when you collect a mask which transforms Kaze into an iteration of herself that may be able to swim effectively, dash and scale walls as if she's Mega Man X, and fly with newly-formed wings. You'll also end up jumping between moving vines, bouncing on trampolines, and there's even a stage where all the platforms are invisible and you have to use visual clues to figure out how to progress. I'm only scratching the surface but it all adds up to one supremely rewarding campaign with just the right level of challenge that will put your skills to the test without ever becoming frustrating.
The campaign in Kaze and the Wild Masks is laid out in a linear fashion in that you progress through a series of levels then face each area's boss. As you play, you'll discover oodles of collectibles and secrets which allow you to fully complete each stage as well as unlock bonus levels and artwork that's stored in an album with all of the watched cutscenes. Each main level allows you to collect 5 kinds of rewards which are earned after completing it without getting hit, finishing in under the par time, collecting 100 crystals, beating 2 hidden bonus challenge areas, and spelling KAZE by collecting the 4 separate letters. For the record, I especially enjoyed completing the time trials because you can climb online leaderboards for each level. Needless to say, doing all of this can be tough, especially in the later stages so if you're a completionist then you will likely spend a great deal of time trying to unlock absolutely everything.
As I mentioned, the campaign is quite linear which is a bit disappointing because having a world map like in Super Mario World, for example, would have went a long way to add a sense of exploration and satisfaction to completing levels and potentially finding hidden exits, etc. Speaking of which, the stages themselves are mostly very linear, too, with the hidden challenge areas being the primary non-linear component. I wish that there was more incentive to explore and perhaps more verticality, too. My only other complaint is that some of the enemy placements can be kind of irritating such as ones that are positioned right on a thin platform which makes avoiding them extremely difficult to do, especially if they're spiky. Considering these are the only downsides, you know it's great stuff.
2D platformers simply don't get much better than Kaze and the Wild Masks. Between its top-notch presentation and its tight and challenging gameplay, any genre fan would be a goof for not giving it a go.
- + Tight retro-inspired 2D platforming with loads of variety and fun throughout
- + Awesome sound and pixel-perfect graphics
- + Lots of replay value, especially time trials
- - Campaign and levels are a bit too linear
- - Some enemy placements are annoying