A short and sweet puzzle game
Have you ever needed to just completely unplug from life for a couple of hours after a long day? I would expect most of you to say yes. In a society where we constantly have something holding our attention, it’s pleasant just to let our minds wander off somewhere else for a short stretch of time.
Video games are my outlet for those moments. The more games I play, the more I enjoy the short experiences that I can play for thirty minutes to an hour and actually feel like I accomplished something…Kamiko was a delight and fit right into this category.
What is Kamiko?
Kamiko is an action/puzzle game that is set in a realm inspired by Japanese Shinto beliefs where you the player are given this power to defend the realm and destroy the monsters that dwell there. You fight as a priestess named Kamiko who is given the responsibility of breaking through the gates by activating “torri” and destroying demons.
You will choose to play with one of three classes: sword-wielding Yamato, archer Uzume, or the hybrid Hinome. Developed by Flyhigh Works’ studio, Kamiko was released on April 27th, 2017 for the beloved Nintendo Switch. Hitting the digital shelves at a low price of only 4.99, this game draws much-deserved attention from Switch lovers around the world. With a limited library and most games falling in the twenty to sixty dollar range, Kamiko is in a small pool of games that Switch owners can snag for less than the cost of a venti double shot espresso at Starbucks.
Kamiko is played in a format in which the player will traverse stages that have to be cleared by solving puzzles to reach the stage’s final boss. Solving these puzzles activates shrines that allow you to reach the boss and also functions as the save feature for the game. By defeating the boss, you move onto the next stage.
The aesthetics of Kamiko were of what seems to be of the 16-bit variety. The colors of the game seemed to be washed out and not vibrant yet still pretty to look at. Each stage has its own color palette that I found calming to take in.
The Nintendo Switch is the perfect platform for this type of game and Kamiko looks great on both the handheld mode and the TV mode, However, I played almost entirely in handheld mode. I found myself just wandering around the levels looking at the beautiful artwork that makes up Kamiko.
There’s something to be said about a retro art style that your modern graphical driven games just do not give to you the player.
Now let me start this by reminding you that this is a five dollar game, not a sixty dollar full triple-A release. Therefore, I will not be grading it as if it was.
Going into Kamiko I honestly was not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. I played this game with my Switch in handheld mode while sitting on the couch as the TV played in the background. Once again, Kamiko is an action game with some simple puzzles utilizing keys, switches, and portals that are found throughout the stage.
You have a choice at the beginning of the game to choose from one of three classes: sword-wielding Yamato, archer Uzume, or the hybrid Hinome. Kamiko feels very much like a Zelda game when it comes to combat. The player has a limited number of life points, much like hearts. Upon each hit you take from an enemy, you lose a health point.
After the first stage, you will understand how most of the concepts of the game work, which will speed up the following stages.
Along the way, you will find a couple of power-ups that will increase your health and power meters. I was lucky enough to stumble across these without much effort, which came in very handy while navigating the rest of the game.
How’s the story?
Unfortunately, where Kamiko falls short for me is in the story department. The only dialogue of the game is a short intro and a brief outro. I would have liked to see an explanation of each stage to help justify fighting. The premise of the game was intriguing, and I would have relished the idea of having some history on the demons that I was destroying.
As far as difficulty goes, Kamiko is not a game that holds your hand. It is up to you to grasp how to use your abilities and how to solve the puzzles that are laid at your feet. The enemies can seem to punish you at first, but with some practice, you will quickly learn to navigate through the game without much obstruction. I felt a little disappointed with the bosses.
Kamiko did a great job of forcing me to search around for thirty to forty-five minutes to reach the climax: the boss battle. However, once I reached the final stage, it seemed more about memorizing patterns than anything else. Once you understood the way the boss moved, it did not take long to take down.
Typically when I go into a boss battle, I expect to feel underpowered and overwhelmed when compared to the boss but in Kamiko it was the opposite. I felt very capable, and if I understood the pattern, it did not take many hits to drop the boss and move onto the next stage.
Kamiko is a small game which makes it a contender for speed runs. For a person who is absolutely horrible at puzzle games, it took me longer than it would take most to slay the final boss. My total game time clocked in at three hours and fourteen minutes. Most of this time was attributed to me running around trying to solve the tail end of each puzzle.
So, on the subject of replayability, with the choice of classes and knowing the layout of the stages, I do believe it would be enjoyable to replay Kamiko once with each class and to try to beat your own personal clear time. I have already found myself hopping back in to try out the different classes and seeing how fast I can maneuver through the stages.
So here I am, at the conclusion and my final opinion of Kamiko. Kamiko was an enjoyable game that could have benefited from more dialogue and an option to increase its difficulty.
Being a cheap game that can be had for just a few bucks, I recommend picking it up if you are running out of things to play on your Switch or simply to give you a break from Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Kamiko is a short and sweet puzzle game that deserves more attention for being such a joy to play on the Nintendo Switch.