At first glance, Kunai seems like it is checking a lot of indie game boxes. Dystopia? Check. Throwback graphics? Check. Metroidvania? Double-check!
While the concepts are not super inventive, the actual gameplay is very unique. And the sheer fun of swinging around via the titular Kunai makes this a game worth checking out.
The plot is not as important as the gameplay in a game such as Kunai. Accordingly, the actual plot you get is paper-thin.
Kunai is all about a dystopian future filled with evil robots. Humanity is long gone, but the resistance to the evil bots lives on in the form of robotic freedom fighters.
Unfortunately, they can’t take on these evil robots on their own. That’s why the good bots have woken you from your slumber. As a robot named Tabby, you must take on the robotic hordes with only your wits and the weapons you can find.
A Decent Metroidvania
What kind of game is Kunai? It fits best into the Metroidvania genre.
If the term is unfamiliar, this refers to games that are a lot like (you guessed it) Metroid and Castlevania. That means there is an emphasis on finding new weapons and upgrades that help you unlock parts of the map that were previously inaccessible.
Being part of this genre both helps and hurts Kunai. On one hand, it is a very fun example of why this genre is still so popular. At the same time, it never quite reaches the heights of the franchises that it is copying.
More Style Than Substance
You can probably tell from a single glance that Kunai is a very stylish game. In many ways, it places style over substance, though that’s not always a bad thing.
For example, it would be pretty accurate to say this game’s most memorable feature is the character design. It’s easy to get distracted simply checking out the different expressions that Tabby makes as he swings into his latest challenge.
Beyond that style, there is not a super-deep or super-long game waiting for you. But crafting a character whose style and design can rightfully stand beside Samus Aran and Simon Belmont is an achievement in and of itself.
Kunai’s style actually extends to the use of color. Specifically, this game’s aesthetic is much more muted than you might expect.
It’s tempting to turn these kinds of games into bright reflections of the entire rainbow. The logic of such a choice is that if your characters look cartoonish, then you might as well make everything look like an old Saturday morning cartoon.
Instead, Kunai sticks with a soft and muted color palette for the most part. And this makes its thoughtful use of brighter colors (like the red of an evil bot’s computer monitor screen) stand out that much more.
It’s not a colorful game. It is a game with a unique and defined aesthetic, and that’s something we love to see.
Swing Low, Sweet Tabby Bot
The challenge of any genre game is that it must stand out from the rest of the genre entries. How does Kunai do that? The answer is right in the name!
The “kunai” in question are basically grappling hooks. With one in each hand, you must learn how to navigate levels and beat bosses using your mad swinging skills.
Overall, this creates an effect much like a good Spider-Man game. You’re going to have so much fun swinging around that at times, it’s more fun to travel through each screen than actually fight the baddies.
That swinging eventually becomes pretty unforgiving, though. If you aren’t willing to master the skill, you’re not going to beat this game’s many challenges.
Backtracking Through the Apocalypse
Even for big fans of the Metroidvania genre, there is one major annoyance: lots and lots of backtracking.
Kunai has plenty of areas that are inaccessible when you first see them. Later, you’ll get weapons and accessories (such as a rocket launcher) that can help you open these areas up.
However, that makes for a very non-linear gameplay experience. Furthermore, you have to remember where these areas are and be willing to backtrack every time you get a new item.
Granted, this has always been a feature of games like Metroid. But if you don’t have a great head for navigation and maps, it can make navigating Kunai a real pain in the butt.
Short (But Not Simple)
Another possible Kunai drawback is in the eye of the beholder: relatively speaking, it’s pretty short.
Most people can beat this game in about six hours. And if you want to unlock every little secret, it should still take you no longer than eight hours.
While a short runtime may be a relief to gamers too busy for something longer, Kunai may be a bit too short for someone who wants to really lose themselves in a virtual world.
Is it worth your time to swing into Kunai? Absolutely.
The art style is cute and the aesthetic is exquisite. The gameplay is fast and focused, but it never feels unfair or deliberately annoying. And the game’s sense of humor and delightful character design will win you over as soon as you start playing.
And who knows? Maybe mastering Tabby’s moves will protect you when the robot apocalypse comes for all of us!