Umihara Kawase: BaZooKa!
Publisher: ININ Games
Genre: Arcade, Action, Multiplayer, Party
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 29/09/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Umihara Kawase: BaZooKa! is a spin-off of the Umihara Kawase series. This series has actually been floating around in the gaming ether for quite some time all the way back to the Super Famicon. In the main series, it’s a colourful little platformer where you use a fishing hook to navigate around platforms and defeat various fishy enemies. If you want to look into the series further the easiest way to play the old games is on Steam but there was also a recent title Umihara Kawase: Fresh released on Nintendo Switch in 2019. BaZooKa takes many of the ideas of this series and turns it into more of an arcade title. Let’s explore in more detail.
The game features two modes of play, Challenge and Battle mode. When you jump into Challenge mode you enter single-screen levels with the goal being to defeat all the enemies on the screen until you collect enough coins to move on to the next stage. After several stages, you come up against a boss. The gameplay feels reminiscent of classic titles like Bubble Bobble and The Fairyland Story.
You can play this alone or bring along an additional 3 friends locally to assist you. Though there is an additional mode where you have the option to attack your friends in a bid to get the best score, but it’s nice to have the choice to make the game more cooperative or competitive focused. You then have the pick of a whopping 22 characters including familiar faces from the Kawase series as well as characters from other games like Cotton and Doki Doki. Each character has 4 colours to choose from and two unique special moves to use in-game. These are all unlocked from the start, which feels a little overwhelming at first. But if you’re looking to dive into this with friends it does avoid the need to grind away unlocking characters and skins. There’s also no microtransactions anywhere to be found here so that’s always brilliant.
There is also Battle Mode which has you go up against 3 other friends or enemies locally or online. Online servers were totally empty when testing the game so I was unable to test this out. It’s a little disappointing this mode does not offer bot support. Sadly if you want to do battle you need to find existing humans to play with.
Controls With A Lure
The controls are similar to basic 2D platformers with movement and jumping. You have use of a double jump but it’s used more to defeat specific enemies as opposed to jumping to higher platforms. The main hook of the game is you have a fish lure you can shoot out. This can be used to hang off platforms to get to higher places but can also be used to stun enemies and turn them into bazooka shots. You can then shoot this bazooka shot to defeat multiple enemies at once, as well as racking up a higher combo score if you knock down several at once.
You can choose between three control styles; beginner makes the lure much easier to control while the technical style makes everything feel more manual and similar to Umihara Kawase: Fresh a style certainly not recommenced for pick up and play players. The controls may feel finicky, to begin with as the jumping feels a bit stilted. When you get hit by an enemy your character staggers backwards quite far and for quite some time before you regain control. This is particularly a problem if you get hit by your own bazooka shot or special ability. Despite the control niggles the game runs well in both TV and handheld modes.
Graphically the game has cute colourful 3D character and enemy models set against pretty standard backgrounds. It certainly has that family-friendly feel but it doesn’t do much to make it stand out from the crowd. Since it’s based on the Umihara Kawase series you can expect to see a lot of fish-based enemies. In fact, looking at footage of the other Umihara Kawase games on the Nintendo Switch it looks like a lot of the models have been recycled here. The music is an upbeat score which accompanies you as you take down all the fishy baddies. It lacks that memorable beat of the arcade though which feels what was needed here.
The main challenge mode has 40 levels in total which seems a little short considering it doesn’t take that long to make your way through each level. The incentive to replay is to play with friends, experiment with new characters, try with one of the more challenging control styles or of course to get a high score. This may be enough for some folks but it feels like it could have done with more levels or possibly some extra modes for example, maybe an endless horde mode.
Whale Of A Time
Overall, Umihara Kawase: BaZooKa! is a decent attempt at the arcade-style genre. If you’re going into this title expecting a platforming experience like the rest of the series you may set yourself up for disappointment. We could certainly do with more games like Bubble Bobble. The trouble is, BaZooKa lacks content and has a few finicky controls that hold it back from greatness. There’s potential here though and maybe if this spin-off gets a sequel that will come later. If you like your arcade games alone or with some friends and fancy something a little different this may be one to look into on sale.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Umihara Kawase: BaZooKa! from the Nintendo store here.