Game Review: Kaze and the Wild Masks (Nintendo Switch)

Posted May 14, 2022 by Angie in Video Game Reviews / 0 Comments

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About:

ESRB Rating: Everyone (Mild Fantasy Violence)
Publisher: Soedesco
Release Date: March 26, 2021
Single Player
Nintendo || Amazon

Story:

Kaze must rescue her friend from a curse plaguing the land! I had to look that up, because it wasn’t clear from the opening cutscene. I couldn’t tell if that was Kaze’s sibling, a friend, a cousin, a neighbor?! They were clearly taken by something. It’s all very vague and honestly felt like an after thought rather than an integral part of the game. I went into it with no motivation to save anything, because what and who am I saving and from what exactly? Where is this even set? No clue.

Visuals:

Kaze and the Wild Masks was inspired by retro platformers and it definitely shows. It looks nice though. It’s 2D with bright, colorful graphics. Our hero is an adorable rabbit, and all of the enemies are giant fruits and vegetables. I loved the character designs overall.

However, everything else does look kind of generic. I was not impressed with the first world at all. The colors look amazing, but the actual backgrounds, foreground, and such were just bland. The following worlds weren’t much better, although they did have more theming. But in general they looked like the first world but with snow or smog or something in some levels. Everything looks so uninspired

In fact, despite each world seeming to have a theme on the world selection screen, once you’re on the level selection screen, it becomes apparent that they’re just loosely themed. For instance, the second world shows a snowy island, pretty standard for any platformer. However, only every other level has snow. The others are completely random, with no obvious connection. I don’t expect every level to look the same, but some cohesion and familiarity isn’t too much to ask for.

Sound Effects + Music:

The music in Kaze and the Wild Masks is fine. I honestly couldn’t remember anything about it after my first play session, which was about an hour long. That’s not a good sign. When I picked it up again, I noticed it and immediately tuned it back out. It’s just not very catchy or memorable. Much like the visuals, the music is completely generic and forgettable.

The sound effects are also fine. Kaze herself doesn’t make much noise, adding to the lack of personality here. The sounds when collecting gems and letters are pretty standard, nothing that stands out. I’ve said it so many times already, but everything is just bland.

Gameplay + Controls:

The gameplay and controls in Kaze and the Wild Masks are pretty standard for 2D platformers. This is a straight platformer, no puzzle elements. You move Kaze through each level in a linear manner to reach the portal at the end. Along the way you collect crystals, K-A-Z-E letters, and play some bonus levels. It’s very Donkey Kong-esque, just with a rabbit. And less fun.

I played on Casual Mode, because while I love platformers, I’m not great at them. Here it just provides extra health, but doesn’t show how much. I’m assuming three hearts, but I’m not sure. It also says there are more checkpoints in the level. As far as I could tell there’s a single regular checkpoint, and Casual Mode adds one or two extra, so you don’t start at the very beginning if you die.

About an hour and half into the game, I finally noticed that the little flying creature that follows Kaze around must be her health meter. It changes color when she takes damage, but I’m not sure what else it does. If anything. It’s an odd choice for sure.

I don’t know if this was a feature of Casual Mode, or a regular game feature, but if you die enough, you’ll get a pop-up asking if you want to move on. I always chose yes, because if I was dying that much, I wasn’t having a good time. I gave each level my best though! Even with the same feature in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, I stuck with the level longer, because I enjoyed the game. Not so here.

Kaze controls pretty well. She can jump and fly a short distance using her super-long ears. She also has a spin attack, which does not work on a lot of enemies. You’ll just have to jump on those. Or completely evade them, as is the case with several enemies types. There’s really no indication on what type of enemy you’re dealing with. Trial and error. Mostly error.

The only control that absolutely sucks is swimming. Kaze will not stay below water. She immediately floats back to the surface, and the only way to collect anything underwater is to keep diving down, quickly grabbing it, floating up, then repeating. I swear this was done just to make the shark mask useful.

Kaze can collect various masks on her journey. They each give her a new ability to help her traverse a level. In fact, you can’t play the level without the mask. For example, she gets a bird mask that lets her fly, or a shark mask that kills underwater enemies, etc. You can’t lose the mask by taking damage. Even when you die, you respawn from the checkpoint with the mask already equipped. So I can’t say that the masks are even power-ups. They’re just a part of the level progression.

I hated the masks, to be honest. The bird mask makes Kaze move way too slow. It was hard to evade moving enemies, because her movement is so sluggish. This was a major problem in the second boss battle, where you have to stay away from the flaming pumpkins who speed up over time. The dragon(?) mask is similarly frustrating as it runs without you pressing anything and doesn’t stop and its attack is a downward swoop which sends you plummeting to your doom. I don’t know how that was helpful. At least it had a double jump.

Replayability:

I definitely missed a lot during my first playthrough of Kaze and the Wild Masks. I wasn’t focused on collecting everything or exploring the levels for hidden bonuses. The game was difficult enough to just get through the main areas. Obviously, this means it has some replay value, if you want to get 100%. Especially since collecting the gems unlocks entries in the game’s album, showing the full story (something that should have been shown before and during the main game!). I’d be interested in seeing the full storyboard, but I have zero interest in playing this game again at all.

It’s also extremely short. When I finished, I was surprised. There’s only four worlds with 8 levels each. It would be no trouble going back doing it again if you enjoyed it. I even considered going back and trying to get the collectibles I missed, since I finished with a dismal 46%. But I switched to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe instead.

Overall:

Kaze and the Wild Masks is a fine 2D platformer, but it has no personality. It does seem like the developers just wanted to make a retro-inspired 2D platformer without giving any thought to the story or characters. It has no soul. The actual gameplay is fine and provides a good challenge. The graphics are fine. The masks element is less than fine, because it felt kind of random. This is not a game I’d actually recommend to anyone. My personal issues with it aside, the game is quite flawed.

Perhaps someone wanting to get into the genre, with no preconceived notions would get more out of it. It’s not a terrible game. It has some great, precise platforming and level designs. It’s just soulless and should have been maskless.

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