Kaze and the Wild Masks Review: A Fun and Tough SNES-Like Platformer

by David Sanchez April 8, 2021 @ 7:15 am

Kaze and the Wild Masks.

Reviewed on Switch

If the team at Retro Studios ever decides to stop working on the Donkey Kong Country series, Nintendo should give the folks behind Kaze and the Wild Masks a call. The game borrows from the classic SNES DKC games, while never feeling like a blatant ripoff. Instead, the teams at PixelHive and Soedesco managed to create something that both pays homage to the platformers of the past and carves its own identity. There are a few minor missteps along the way, but overall, Kaze is a fun time that’s absolutely worth it for anyone who’s a fan of 2D platformers.

Mascot Platforming Revisted

The ‘90s were all about mascots in video games. You had Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Ristar, and a bunch more. Some had a longer-lasting appeal than others, but basically, these characters brought fun cartoon vibes to video games — and Kaze and the Wild Masks has a similar vibe. The game stars a bunny protagonist who’s tasked with stopping an evil curse that’s plaguing a peaceful land. The story’s not exactly exciting, but it leans on the exact type of save-the-day heroics as the platformers of the past — which is to say it’s fine and serviceable, if a bit middling.

Kaze and the Wild Masks platforming gameplay.

Where Kaze and the Wild Masks truly shines, though, is in its polished platforming gameplay. The titular Kaze can jump, slide down steep hills, twirl her ears to glide, and use her ears to grab hold of tightropes and make her way across crazy pitfalls. There are clever jumps and tricky obstacles at every turn, and the game poses a genuinely high level of challenge. The game is mostly fair, and because it doesn’t limit the number of retries per level, you’re encouraged to keep trying when you encounter particularly tough parts.

Enemies are everywhere, and while you could definitely avoid most of them, taking them out of the equation will make everything much more doable. For example, some enemies just walk from left to right along platforms, while others lob projectiles at you at the worst times, so it’s best to tread carefully and be smart about removing baddies.

There are some levels where Kaze will put on different masks that change up the gameplay format. The shark mask lets you swim freely underwater. The tiger mask lets you air-dash and wall jump. The lizard mask challenges you with auto-running sequences. These masks make for some pretty fun moments, and they create a nice change of pace from the standard platforming mechanics.

Kaze and the Wild Masks boss battle.

Unfortunately, there are a few less-than-stellar sequences in Kaze. Boss fights, for example, are dreadfully tedious, and the final boss is especially frustrating. In addition, there are too many levels where you’re being chased by something or trying to outrun an environmental hazard like lava. This stuff is okay, but it pales in comparison to the rest of the platforming.

A Neo-Classic Presentation

Though mechanically Kaze and the Wild Masks plays a lot like a game you’d see on the SNES back in the ‘90s, it has more of a Sega Genesis tone to it. Environments range from bright and colorful to dark and spooky to fiery and treacherous. There’s a heavy ‘90s vibe to Kaze and the Wild Masks, and a lot of that is due to both the game’s graphics and the animations of Kaze herself.

You’ll hear quite a bit of music in this game, and a lot of it is pretty good. Some themes stand out nicely, while others are just sort of missing something to really make them much catchier. Overall, there’s nothing wrong with the music of Kaze, but it also doesn’t have that grand, memorable sound that a lot of platformers feature.

Kaze and the Wild Masks Switch gameplay.

Kaze and the Wild Masks features four worlds with multiple levels. Don’t let that number fool you, though — there are plenty of levels in each of those worlds, and they’re all pretty lengthy. You’ll also find a good amount of collectibles, as well as time trials and no-damage challenges. It took me seven hours to play through the game, and that included clearing some of the optional levels and finding collectibles in a lot of the early stages.

You’ll have a good time with Kaze and the Wild Masks if you’re a fan of difficult retro platformers. The game does an excellent job of emulating that old school spirit, and it treats you to some pretty awesome worlds. It’s not all incredible, though, and the boss battles are particularly bad, but you’ll definitely find a good chunk of game to enjoy here. Kaze and the Wild Masks is a solid platformer with plenty of great moments — here’s hoping we see more of this cool bunny mascot down the road.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

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