Kaze and the Wild Masks takes players to a charming world of lush lands and violent veggies. It’s unabashed in its love of Donkey Kong Country, drawing upon many of its mechanics and movements, to the point where it all feels incredibly familiar. That doesn’t mean the game doesn’t have its own devious tricks that, when combined with its beautiful visuals, make for an experience that feels quite new and just a little bit ruthless.
The Crystal Islands have been cursed, which seems to have given all of the vegetables a lousy attitude. Your friend Hogo needs saving. Those are more than enough reasons to motivate you to head out through a world filled with pits and irate creatures, hopping and bopping along the way. It’s a light tale, but it keeps from infringing on the platforming play.
Kaze and the Wild Masks’ platforming doesn’t need any distractions, as it gets challenging in a hurry. While I’d never argue that Donkey Kong Country was an easy game, it takes a little while before its challenges really start to push me. This game gives you a level or two, then it starts to demand some skilled jumps. It’s not that it gets frustrating early, but it does feel like it starts requiring precision pretty quickly. If you like a platformer with very little fooling around, this one is it.
Some platformers seem to give players a bit of grace when it comes to how close they have to be for a jump to hit its target. They grant that extra tiny bit of distance where you feel like you should have probably missed the jump, but still land it. This game is a bit pickier, as I often felt that I made a jump that should have landed, but didn’t, or wouldn’t be quite on target for a launcher or goal stone. As such, you need to be a bit more particular about your landings, which resulted in some frustration. Frustration that was purely my fault, but still.
Not that Kaze and the Wild Masks doesn’t give you enough tools to be precise. In your basic bunny form, you can glide by spinning your ears, to give you greater control over your landing spot. It’s very handy to use to hit moving platforms and targets or to make sure you get a little bit more air from a long jump. That said, you can’t transition to your glide if you bounce off of an enemy’s head, which takes some getting used to. It can also mean that you won’t have the tool available when you really need it, unless you dodge enemies on purpose. It encourages players not to rely on it, while still giving them a tool to get used to the game’s fussier platforming.
Jumping and gliding aren’t your only platforming tools, as you also have the masks from the game’s title. These function kind of like the animal friends from Donkey Kong Country, letting Kaze do things like swim better or fly. These show up during specific segments of the game that change up how you play, offering some great variety and new ways to challenge the player beyond basic platforming.
I’m not trying to say the platforming gets boring, either, as the developers have provided many interesting stages for players to work through in Kaze and the Wild Masks. Expect launcher mechanisms swinging back and forth across deadly pits. There are moments when you have to touch mechanisms that stop dangerous enemies from rushing around the stages. You can also expect to hop across invisible platforms, following enemies to know where it’s safe. That latter stage is in the first world, by the way. (I did say this game gets challenging quickly.) It’s not Ghosts N’ Goblins Resurrection difficult, but it can be demanding.
Enemies also provide their own challenges while looking great (in an ugly way). Brutish carrots, peas in a seafaring pod, cranky tomatoes, and snapping corncobs all provide myriad hazards as they wander about. It’s nothing a quick bop on the head (or a spinning attack from your ears that feels very close to the movements of a certain Kong with a blonde ponytail) can’t deal with. Still, they’re often patrolling places you want to leap to or places where you can’t easily avoid them or their special defenses. (You can’t roll into the corn’s razor teeth, right?) They offered the developers more tools to make crafty platforming segments.
Like I said, Kaze and the Wild Masks’ enemies look great. They’re vibrant and smoothly animated, giving them personality. They’re also all quite nasty looking in their own way, giving you a real sense that they hate our bunny heroine. The tomatoes especially seem to be in a rotten mood. They exudes hostility, which kinda makes sense since each one is waiting for a rabbit to stomp them to death.
The rest of the game’s levels are as impressive as the characters’ visuals. Each is filled with details that’ll catch your eye as you try to rush through each stage. It even offers a great deal of variety, taking players to all sorts of areas even within the first few levels. This gives you something to appreciate at as you try Kaze and the Wild Masks’ stages over and over again. Like any good platformer, it’s filled with collectibles you can grab. These are all either hidden or placed in areas where you’ll need to take big risks to collect them, adding to the replay value. Many of them unlock secret artwork or hidden stages too.
Kaze and the Wild Masks is a loving homage to Donkey Kong Country, but it has a few unique platforming ideas and its own stunning visual style. Just don’t expect it to go easy on you, based on its cute protagonist and impressive worlds.
Kaze and the Wild Masks will appear on March 26, 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC.