Kamiko is a game that feels like a step between what arcades were all about and what consoles wrought. Perhaps that’s a weird frame of reference, considering the days of entering a cacophony of beeps and blips in a dim room have all but gone away and playing in front of your television is all we know, but it takes the sensibilities of two disciplines and puts you in between them.
Kamiko tasks you with saving the transient world from invading demons, and to do so you must break their seals on four gates littered across each area and then face the subsequent boss after opening its lair. It’s a familiar loop, but with it comes a certain comfort in knowing what you’re doing. Kamiko is by no means a game that pushes boundaries, but it excels at what it does do. You can take it at your own pace; with enough cognizance you can blaze through the entire game in under an hour or take it piecemeal as the game saves every time you liberate a gate. It’s rare to see a game cater to varying play styles like this, which makes it all the more impressive for such a quaint title.
Other elements are at odds with each other, towing the line between breakneck action title and deliberate adventure game. Often doors are sealed until you bring a key or drop a set of orbs onto a pedestal. To keep pressure on the player, enemies constantly respawn. Most times they are just fodder that you slash through to build up your combo meter (which serves as an energy mechanic of sorts), but when carrying something, they become a true hindrance. You can’t unsheathe you weapon while holding something else, so it’s up to the player to navigate through the horde in order to meet your objective. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but the forced change of pace spices things up.
Combat feels good, with your chosen shrine maiden (who turns into the superhero-esque Kamiko) glomming to foes when you tap the attack button as you drift into combos. One character has you swinging a sword while another offers ranged attacks with an arrow. The last combines the two by giving you a rebounding chakram that lets you jab with a dagger while it flies through the air. Nothing in the game changes depending on which character you choose, but your approach, and in a way the difficulty of the game, does vary.
Kamiko is very subtle in its design, never swaying into a depth of mechanics or world design that would pigeon hole it into a specific genre. It never pushes the envelope, but also never overstays its welcome with its simplicity. I don’t usually equate the price of a game with its quality, but at $5 Kamiko is the perfect impulse buy that leaves you satisfied with what you get while not straining your wallet in the least.
Published by: Circle Entertainment/Flyhigh Works
Played on: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: April 27th, 2017