In Blade Kitten, the little-known adventures of the bounty-hunting Kit Ballard have sprung to life on the home console, bringing its colourful world and quirky characters along for the ride. Looking to win some hearts with its cutesy charm, the game’s greatest strength lies in its sense of identity and understanding of its target audience; indeed those enamoured with the cat-ladies of Japanese anime may well decide to play this on the premise alone. Everyone else can be expected to approach it with a good deal of scepticism – it’s a good thing too given the ten-pound/fifteen-dollar price tag, and while there might not be anything horrendous about it, Blade Kitten is so bland and generic that there’s very little to recommend to the gaming masses.
The tale makes little sense from the off, thrusting you into the worlds with scarce explanation as to why, and it will undoubtedly leave newcomers to series somewhat lost, clinging to the sole piece of information that Kit must obtain the Breaker Key, or something, from her bleach-blonde rival, Justice Kreel. The heroine will run into a number of friendly faces throughout her journey and the dialogue is cheesy yet sound – making the best of a bad situation by capitalising on its laughably corny scenes. These cutscenes are mercifully short at least, but certain characters will begin to grate on you, as will Kit’s bizarre reactions to them. The voice work is serviceable on the whole, though we expect many gamers to be put off by Kit’s attitude from the outset. Floating sidekick Skiffy provides some extra cute factor and ends up as fairly likeable with his dumb, questioning noises raising the occasional smile.
For the most part, the game plays out like a platformer in the traditional sense. Kit’s blade floats behind her, leaving her free to traipse through the alien world of Hollow Wish. Sprinting, leaping, climbing and the ability to hang from ceilings make up the bulk of her navigating repertoire, with each victory in battle resting solely on her blade-lobbing moves. We say lobbing, because that’s exactly how it feels in practise, resulting in a combat system more reliant on frantic button tapping than any real sense of timing or skill.
There’s an awful lot of combat to be found – particularly in later levels when you find yourself swamped by enemy respawns – so it’s a shame that it’s one of the game’s major sore points. Kit can block for a short period of time to protect from various attacks, and this is especially useful when she finds herself stunned by a soldier’s melee. Shielded foes help to mix things up later on, but the battles remain unremarkable, feeling more like a chore than a reason to keep on playing.
The stages largely consist of running from one side to the other, flipping switches to open doors and turn off laser-beams, climbing along cliff-faces and making your way through the occasional vent or sewer system. Levels tend to end up as a bit of a slog thanks to the repetitive environments and overuse of particular colour schemes, most notably grey. A few stages mix things up with a mountable creature and broader colour scheme, but areas end up feeling exhausted before they’ve truly begun thanks to a lack of variety overall. Sound glitches are in abundance, skipping frequently, and the game is not above the odd graphical hiccup either.
Some moments do heat things up considerably, such as having to run from an enormous platform-smashing creature in the middle of the game. With the repetitive nature of the minute-to-minute action, it’s a shame there weren’t a few more interesting set pieces like this. On the bright side, checkpoints are plentiful, so the occasional instant-death scenario never becomes too frustrating or unfair. Highly forgiving and simple, some may find this title lacking in the challenge department.
The game does offer a fair amount to unlock via the Select menu, with alternate outfits, new weapons, and health and stamina increases available for a set amount of in-game points. Tokens can be collected throughout the levels, giving patient players something to shoot for if they simply must have that white dress for Kit or an added to boost to their life meter. Tokens of various colours can be found in all manner of locales, with a good many side areas and secret chests thrown in to reward you for the effort. Points are plentiful and can be spent confidently, racking up quickly enough should you take the time to explore thoroughly. Unfortunately, it’s all too tempting to make a dash for the next checkpoint rather than go off the beaten path for rewards each time.
With characters set to appeal to a specific audience, some may find Kit and her supporting cast more obnoxious than likeable. The tale is muddled and poorly executed, the action is unremarkable, and yet, for all its issues, Blade Kitten is still a playable game with enough sugary-sweet style to appeal to a younger audience – or indeed those with an interest in all things cat-girl. If you can see past the dull combat and floaty controls then the game may offer a few hours of enjoyment on a very basic level but unless the next episode can liven things up and provide us with a more engaging experience than this slice of mediocrity, then there’s very little reason to start purring with anticipation.
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