Kaze and the Wild Masks
Developer: Pixel Hive
Genre: Adventure, Platformer, Action, Arcade, Family
Platform: PS4 (also available on XB1, Switch, Stadia and Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 25/03/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
Kaze and the Wild Masks is a platformer that pays homage to Donkey Kong Country. Kaze, an adventurous bunny, needs to journey through the Crystal Islands and save her friend Hogo from a curse. Fight mutant vegetables, navigate precarious platforming gauntlets, and discover collectables in Kaze and the Wild Masks.
There are a few story elements featured in Kaze and the Wild Masks. The player is shown a brief cutscene in the beginning of the game that depicts Hogo getting trapped by a curse and Kaze deciding to journey through the Crystal Islands to save him. In addition to establishing the conflict, after each boss fight, the developers included additional cutscenes detailing the death of the bosses and the liberation of the native animals. These cutscenes are not particularly meaningful as there is no dialogue between the characters. The plot is simply a means to continue player progression.
While the cutscenes featured after each boss fight are nothing special, the game features collectables that show images that detail more in-depth lore. These images engage the player in the world and establish a timeline that took place before the curse. These images depict a more fleshed-out world, showing powerful fighters from years prior. Despite this inclusion, the story does not stand by itself. This is not a significant issue, as many platformers do not include story whatsoever. The story elements add to the package but do not purchase this game in hopes for a moral adventure.
Show Do Not Tell
Though the story is not noteworthy, the developers included subtle features that make the experience feel unique. For example, when travelling on the world map, each level will be displayed in the background, showing what the level has in store. This not only reminds players wishing to revisit levels the content included but excites new players, showing them the new ideas or concepts featured in the levels. Moreover, the levels feature level names that are both creative and explanatory. The developers of Kaze and the Wild Masks are experts at giving the player information about the world without spending time explaining it.
Spin Bunny Spin!
The gameplay on offer in Kaze and the Wild Masks is phenomenal. Kaze can jump, float and attack. Her attack causes her to spin, killing any enemies in front of her. Having a single attack reinforces that the focus is on platforming instead of combat. It is still incredibly satisfying to kill enemies. Kaze gets a speed boost, incentivizing the slaughter of enemies. When Kaze is in the air, she can hover by spinning her ears or ground pound, attacking enemies below her. These options are different but still simple enough for all players to effectively handle. Though the options are simple to inexperienced players, capable players can rapidly progress through levels by using their attack to move faster, and ground pound to jump slightly higher. The options provided to the player ensure that there are significant options for competent players without making Kaze too complex for those less competent.
Before the game begins, the player can select a lower difficulty, accommodating players of lower skill levels. The developers constantly show their desire to keep the game accessible without making the game easy. Even with challenging platforming and enemy placement, the player is given unlimited attempts, fast respawns, and a checkpoint system. While accommodating, Kaze and the Wild Masks does not only focus on accessibility. There is a significant challenge present for platforming fans as well.
Seek and You Shall Find
Additionally, each level features collectables. There are K-A-Z-E letters, bonus level portals, and red gems. Collecting each item or completing the bonus levels will reward the player with more challenging levels, and ultimately, the true ending. Collectables were placed expertly. While some are hidden, they are never invisible to the player, ensuring the player feels smart for finding them instead of cheated for not being able to. Moreover, the bonus levels on offer were excellent challenges of skill. The player is tasked with collecting gems, killing enemies, or completing a course in a certain amount of time. Each implication felt unique, and completing each course was satisfying. Completing every bonus level in a world unlocks a challenge level. These levels are tough but rewarding tests of player skill, encouraging talented players to test their skill. Furthermore, there are time trials for truly dedicated players.
The developers implemented new objects in levels seamlessly. Often, there are multiple new elements added to each level. For example, in the level Tiger Popsicle, the player is introduced to falling icicles, moving platforms, and the tiger mask. Instead of simply focusing on one, the level familiarizes the player with multiple, keeping the player engaged throughout the level. Moreover, due to the frequency of new assets, certain elements are forgotten by the player. When they are reused, they are expanded upon, refreshing the player on their mechanics, and adding additional depth. Unfortunately, the pace of introducing new assets decreased drastically after the third world. These stages focused on expanding current assets instead of developing new ones. These levels are still solid but introducing new enemies in the fourth world would have kept players engaged even further. The design choices related to levels, especially for the first three worlds was excellent.
What’s Under that Mask?
Finally, the game features alternate masks for Kaze to wear. These masks are symbolic of talented warriors who fought ages ago. Now, they grant their powers to Kaze. She is given flight, the ability to swim, increased mobility, and even transforms into a lizard for an automatic running section. These masks work differently than powerups in many other platformers. Once collected, she is granted their powers for the rest of the level.
Getting damaged does not alter her abilities, and she can still die with the masks on. Instead, the level changes to suit the ability she is granted. These masks add excellent variety to the gameplay, and are an exciting breath of fresh air, especially considering how infrequently each is used. These masks were never burdensome or overused. Despite being in the title, the masks only supplement the already existing platforming sections. Even those who do not like automatic running sections should not worry, as the automatic running sections are few and far between. The masks were an enjoyable addition to the game.
The sound design is also excellent. The music always fit the theme of the surrounding area and never got repetitive. The sound effects further expanded upon the game and showed the player what they can do. Some players may find that Kaze’s voice lines are obnoxious, but they were not overused or excessively loud.
Rabbit Season or Duck Season?
The visuals on offer in Kaze and the Wild Masks are also wonderful. Enemies are bright and colourful, landscapes are vivid, and Kaze herself pops out from the background. Moreover, the enemies have specific places where they are vulnerable, and the visuals clearly indicate where the player should focus their attacks. The visuals captivate audience attention and look good doing so.
With around eight hours of gameplay and decent reason to return due to the time trials, Kaze and the Wild Masks is an excellent adventure. Saving Hogo and defeating each boss will spark joy and exploring Crystal Island will leave players with fond memories. I greatly enjoyed my time with Kaze and the Wild Masks, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys classic platformers such as Donkey Kong Country.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can purchase Kaze and the Wild Masks from the PlayStation store here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.