I’ll be honest: There were two reasons I was looking forward to Blade Kitten. First, it’s an action game where you play as a cute pink-haired catgirl. Second, it draws clear design inspiration from classic side-scroller Strider. More honesty: I didn’t know this was based on a webcomic until someone else told me. Having played the game, I don’t really have any desire to, either.
Created by Steve Stamatiadis, the creative genius behind Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, Blade Kitten follows the adventures of smart-mouthed bounty hunter Kit Ballard, her marketable alien sidekick Skiffy, and an inexplicable floating sword called Dark Darque Blade. It’s very, very mid-’90s Saturday morning cartoon, but it never seems quite sure if it’s taking itself seriously; Kit herself cracks painful one-liners at every opportunity, but also has a traumatic past.
I’d like to speak more of the background and story, but beyond the second stage, it’s frankly incomprehensible. Upon completing the game — which, of course, ends with a To Be Continued that will never happen as the studio no longer exists — I had no clue who the character I’d just fought was. Each stage moves to a different location with little explanation as to where I’ve gone, how I got there, and what I’m supposed to do. In one sequence, Kit falls down a hole, hallucinates about the end of her world, wakes up in a grassy field, and is immediately asked to go save some farmers…which she does. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was intentional.
Special attention must be given to the voice work. Kit sounds absolutely nothing like a bounty hunter would act — she sounds more like a teenage girl who spends too much time on the internet. There’s a specific number of times one can hear the words “win get!” before it starts to grate, and it’s less than two.
The unintelligible story and terrible characterization could be ignored if the game itself was up to task. Unfortunately, while it’s solid enough, it does nothing particularly spectacularly, and isn’t enough to make up for the unappealing creative design. Kit can latch onto most surfaces, making it quite easy to explore the often labyrinthine stages. Easily the best part of the game is the exploration; every stage has literally dozens of hidden areas filled with treasure and hidden collectibles, and spotting a broken wall, busting through, and finding a cache of Hex (the game’s currency) is the greatest joy to be found here.
The combat, on the other hand, is almost inconsequential. Most foes can be dispatched by either spamming the weak attack or jumping up and slamming into the ground. Only one enemy type puts up any resistance at all. There’s a slide kick that does too little damage, parries that I never once got to work on cue, and a perch move that looks pretty cool but is too hard to use for it to be practical. Boss fights, when not cases of simply hacking away until they die, are simple pattern-memorization at most.
It doesn’t help the combat any that the game is ridiculously easy. Stages are incredibly large and winding, often taking upwards of 30 minutes to complete if you explore, but there are copious checkpoints and literally the only penalty for death is a handful of enemy respawns and a trip back to the checkpoint. Not to mention that there is a near-infinite shield, and regenerating health. Coming off a game like Super Meat Boy it feels a little bit insulting to be coddled by a game like this. I might respect it a bit more if it took actual effort to play.
To be fair, I didn’t hate my time with Blade Kitten — exploring the stages and looking for treasure had its fun points — but even at the discounted price of 600msp I still don’t really feel like it was worth the investment. As it’s still 1200msp, I simply cannot recommend it at all. Avoid.