There are not so many good and memorable indie projects now. Developers or small studios want, like their large colleagues, to simply make money quickly by creating a very mediocre and not interesting project. However, sometimes such games come out, pleasure and interest from which you can get even more than from a large AAA project. And here we have Katana Zero – an action platformer with 16-bit graphics. Will such a project be able to repeat the success of Hotline Miami, which is similar in style and gameplay, and leave its bright mark on the gaming industry by capturing a crowd of fans and admirers? Or is this game going to be another runner-up that can be found several times a month on Steam? Let’s take a closer look at the game and try to give an objective answer.
Warrior with a katana and the world of the future
Katana ZERO is a bright and exciting story, which was created and realized in the form of a game by the American programmer from New York Justin Stender. Six years of long creation and work eventually resulted in a mysterious detective story about a killer looking for the cause of losing his memory in the fantastic world of the future and simultaneously trying to solve the mystery of the appearance of the unknown secret drug Chronos. This drug allowed the protagonist to gain control over time. But besides the main character, some other characters also have this ability, with whom the protagonist will have to face in a deadly confrontation.
We chop everybody!
Like the previous project of the Devolver Digital studio, Hotline Miami, Justin Stender’s storyline involves traveling across locations and completely exterminating them from enemies using improvised means using slowing down, stopping and rewinding time. Our hero can try out a variety of options for clearing the level before finding the most suitable one for him and going further through the story. The main character skillfully rolls around the locations, using his abilities with time control, stops bullets and quickly cuts enemies with a katana. If at least one bullet or blow hits our hero, then, as in the Hotline Miami game, he will die and start the level over. Although given that all events first take place in his head and only with a successful outcome are anticipated into life, it is difficult to call it actual death, but these are already details. Of course, over time, the tasks become more complicated, and now you have in front of you not bandits with clubs and swords, but experienced special forces in large numbers who are armed with machine guns and lasers, and their number has increased significantly. Now you have to choose new ways to solve the problem and think over the attacks in more detail, which, of course, pleases, as it makes the gameplay more fun.
At the end of many missions, you will face a boss, which will be a real challenge and a good test for your abilities. However, in addition to an exciting and interesting level, where you, like the old militants, cut one bandit with a katana, throw a knife in the second, and after you roll through the third, this game also has a good plot. The creators of the game have dispersed here to their fullest (in a good way) and are ready to offer players interesting plot twists and colorful dialogues, which in Russian localization are full of selective mate (it’s good or bad to decide for yourself). Oddly enough, harsh vocabulary helps to better penetrate the characters and the plot. Another important detail is that the game has a lot of irony and humor, which is certainly nice to see in this kind of project.
We communicate between battles
There was also a place for variability in the dialogues. For example, you have a special red bar of the hero, which shows the level of his anger, and if activated, the hero can break down on his interlocutor. This method is sometimes very effective and helps to get the necessary information and answers to the questions posed from another character. But you can also communicate in a calm tone, which in certain situations also helps you and gives you the opportunity to get some information from other characters. In addition, the gameplay allows you to pass the levels quietly, without killing anyone and carefully bypassing the enemies making your way to the goal. However, as for me, this option is very boring and very inconvenient. The game also found a place for vehicle chases, which also makes it possible to diversify the gameplay and add something new to it.
Pixels and electronic music
The 16-bit stylization of the game, combined with sophisticated effects and animation of the characters, creates a unique and memorable style that is the trump card of the game, making it more atmospheric and colorful. Locations, heroes and battles are made at the highest level and therefore you can’t immediately believe that there is only one person behind all this.
If we take the version of the game for the Nintendo Switch platform, then I would like to note that in the portable format the image is anti-aliased due to the small screen size, which makes it possible to better enjoy the game for those who do not really like pixels and a similar image.
Each level will have a bright and groovy music track, in the creation of which such musicians as Ludowic and Bill Keely participated. Electronic music blends perfectly with the style of play and gives the gameplay additional dynamics and drive.
What do we end up with?
Katana ZERO stands out brightly and is a great game, especially when compared to the outright rubbish of indie projects that have flooded the gaming industry. The developer Katana ZERO is not trying to copy other games or even take a similar theme of high-profile projects, but instead is ready to offer bright and colorful battles, an interesting plot with great dialogue and an amazing atmosphere with personality, making this 2D platformer one of the most brutal and beautiful indie games of the current of the year. The only sad moment here is that the continuation of the magnificent story will have to wait for several more years.
LID2PRO reviewer verdict
An amazing and addictive game that can easily compete with major players in terms of drive and interest. Two-dimensional levels, on which you need to colorfully kill enemies without taking any damage, can drag the player for long hours, and the presence of stealth and variability of dialogues between levels together with missions where you need to participate in the pursuit quite skillfully dilutes the gameplay.
If we take into account that the game is an independent indie project that has been created for many years by one person, then its visual component with a combination of 16-bit graphics and vivid effects, together with detailed details, leaves the best impression of the game and has a beneficial effect on its overall atmosphere.
The soundtrack in the game is made at the highest level. At each location, groovy electronic music will play, which significantly improves the atmosphere and fun in the game. The sound in the game can be enjoyed by literally all players, from ordinary gamers to real music lovers.
An intricate story with a mysterious killer, secret drug and time management in the setting of the distant future can safely drag you into long hours. Add to this the fact that the main character is well revealed in the process of passing and the fact that the game has a huge number of memorable dialogues with harsh speech. The plot and storyline of Katana ZERO is definitely one of its greatest strengths especially when you consider that the game is an indie project.
Wielding a katana, managing time and rolling from enemy to enemy is equally easy and simple. This control allows you to better enjoy the game and successfully complete all levels with the proper skill and attention. The game has no problems with this aspect.
Katana ZERO is a clear example of the fact that even without resources and funds, but with just one fantasy and desire, you can create a successful and good game that will appeal not only to fans of old platformers, but also to ordinary fans of good action projects. The game turned out to be good from all sides – good and atmospheric graphics, a funny and groovy soundtrack, a catchy and intricate story, and of course a driving gameplay that allows us to slash enemies left and right with a katana while controlling time. Do you need anything else for fun? I would like to thank Justin Stender for such a masterpiece and wish him good luck. As for the game itself, this is one of the best indie projects of recent years, which definitely deserves your attention.