There are certain games that feel extraordinarily satisfying to play. Maybe it’s something about the way the characters look, the way the story is told, or how they play. With TurtleBlaze’s Kunai Nintendo Switch and PC Metroidvania, it comes to down to the joy of movement. With Kunai comes a sense of exhilaration. It happens when you attack. It kicks in when you start learning how to swiftly navigate maps. It is definitely there when you defeat an enemy or find a new progression tool as the spoils of war.
Kunai is about a robot who is blessed with both ninja and samurai skills. The game begins with members of a revolutionary group discovering the one robot who could be the key to their salvation. Given this is a world where robots have taken over and humanity is largely absent, the stark color palette and minimalistic color palettes make sense. It’s a technological world filled with shades of grey, though certain items like Tabby’s life draining katanas, hostile robots, and dropped energy are an eye popping red filled with passion and potentially rage.
Tabby’s key weapon is the katana picked up almost immediately after they awaken. It’s more than a simple, reliable sword. It’s a means of restoring health. It’s perfect for devastatingly swift blows. Most importantly, there’s nothing that feels better than having it and swinging at the precise moment necessary to parry gunshots, knocking them back at the robot who was shooting at Tabby. It feels so smooth and natural, with a sense of flow that fits the moment. Especially if it is an enemy like a tank, which has an increased rate of fire.
Speaking of flow, the way Tabby traverses this often dilapidated world filled with hazards or obstacles can feel extraordinary once you’ve found the rhythm to it. Not long after playing, Tabby acquires a pair of kunai. These are mapped to the Switch’s triggers and allow you to rappel back and forth between small spaces or up walls. If you time things correctly, Tabby can swing and parkour their way through spaces, with Kunai gradually introducing new kinds of challenges to work through as you become more comfortable with using what are essentially two grappling hooks.
There are also Tabby’s twin pistols. While the katana also has an effect where a downward slash on a breakable object or enemy gives you a mild boost in the air, these two guns have an effect that reminds me a bit of Downwell. Once you take the few downward shots, you have this temporary sense of propulsion from the recoil. You’re also limited by bullets, which need to be reloaded, which makes you think strategically about when you should shoot or how you should approach a situation with them.
Kunai feels like it revels in Tabby’s skillset and movements. The more you learn to do as they acquire weapons, the better the game feels. At times, I almost felt like it was more than an ordinary Metroidvania. It was one that rewarded smooth, swift actions and learning how well things can flow together.
Kunai is available for the Nintendo Switch and PC.