Blade Kitten
by Polly

Goddamn you, Steam sales! All you do is make me buy shit I probably don't need, only for me to completely forget about buying those things I probably don't need until I see it on my list of games months later. Seriously, if you're digging through your massive pile of games in a vain attempt to clean out the backlog in hopes that someday you'll finally be free and have to ask yourself, "When the hell did I buy that?" you've probably got problems. 


That said, today we...



...for a review of Steam Purchase I Don't Remember At All #29837284, Blade Kitten, the first in what was supposed to be a series of episodic games based on a webcomic by Steve Stamatiadis. Prior to the game's original PS3 release, about the only thing I knew about the webcomic was that it was heavily inspired by 90's and early 2000's anime archetypes and that characters unironically threw around phrases like "OMGWTF" and "pwnt" liberally, along with a smattering of other fucking stupid internet lingo. I've never read the webcomic because I think webcomics are stupid. 


That said, about the only way you're going to make any kinda sense out of Blade Kitten's story (beyond "haha, that pink-haired cat girl is kinda funny and cute!") is if you're already invested in the webcomic. The game just assumes you already know who all these characters, races, and factions are and turns you loose. I think even fans of the story may end up completely confused by the narrative though, because there's very little transitioning or explaining of what's happening. One minute you're here, and a loading screen later, you're somehow in a completely different area with new characters, and the protagonist acting is if nothing ever happened. Is this some kinda new "episodes inside an episode" technique I'm not familiar with? 

While you may not get much out of Blade Kitten's story, I think the art style, voice acting, and dialog writing deserve special mention. They were sure to make plucky protagonist, Kit Ballard, immediately likable (other than her use of fucking stupid internet lingo) and her voice actress does a great job at presenting her as happy-go-lucky and confident in a way that's simply endearing. The art style is cel-shaded, fitting the source material really well, and even with the limited range of animation they had to work with, characters are expressive and fun to watch and listen to interacting with one another. I found myself enjoying any break the game had for a cutscene, even if I had no goddamn idea what was going on. 


Breaks in gameplay were, unfortunately, fairly welcome throughout my five-hour romp through Kit Ballard's world. Blade Kitten feels like the unfortunate victim of a rushed dev cycle with gameplay that rarely feels engaging and a good dose of technical issues as icing on the cake that make for a fairly flawed and unambitious project. 

The game feels almost Strider-like in how it controls. As you'd expect a heroine with kitty blood to be, Kit is fast, can climb and perch on pretty much everything, and is capable of some fancy acrobatics to get around stages and deal with her foes. Each of the game's stages are huge enough to make use of Kit's mobility and Parkour-like maneuverability, and getting around generally feels pretty neat when the game sticks to simple platforming. 

I never felt much of an urge to make much use of the game's focus on exploration however, as the rewards never felt worth it. Every stage has anywhere from 30-50 various bonus pick-ups you can scavenge for, including treasure chests full of Hex (the game's upgrade currency) and pointless data disks, or goldfish, or cute little animals and what have you. It's just an explosion of pick ups that are there for the sake of being there, and the only real reward is just the satisfaction of having completed a stage with all of them. By following the critical path or even getting lost a few times through each stage, you'll end up with enough Hex to pick up all four upgraded weapons and a few health and stamina bonuses, which will be more than adequate to finish the game since difficulty is hardly a factor. With stages being as large as they are, exploration could have been a lot more satisfying if you were hunting down your upgrades instead of just buying them from a menu any time you please. 


Combat is fairly straight forward and mostly boring. I'd almost call it optional given how little aggression your foes seem to exhibit. You have up-close and ranged attacks mapped to separate buttons and Kit has a few special moves she can do related to whatever weapon she has equipped as well as a somersault throw to get rid of enemies.  Most enemies can be dispatched with a simple melee attack, with tougher enemies requiring a trick here and there such as pulling their shields away. It's nothing too difficult or engaging. For the most part, you'll just be running along and swinging your short-range attack to take care of anything in your way. The few boss fights are also fairly standard, requiring simple tactics like jumping over them and hitting a weak point, or dodging an attack that took seven years to telegraph and exploiting the opening. There's just not much satisfaction given the amount of thought put into Kit's arsenal vs how most of it is hardly ever worth using. 

Technical issues also come around to put a big damper on things. Chiefly among these is that the game's framerate is consistently terrible, which seems really weird given that nothing in the game really seems to be pushing hardware all that hard. It's not uncommon to have framerate dips into the mid-teens with very little going on at all, and these down-spikes can and will have a pretty significant impact on your inputs, either lagging them badly or attacks and jumps not coming out at all. Another rather annoying issue is that Kit can sometimes become permanently stuck to certain walls, or simply fall through them, rendering your current run completely unfinishable. Most of these wall and geometry glitches can be fixed by restarting your last checkpoint, but there were two instances where I had to restart an entire stage because reloading the checkpoint still spawned me out of a level's boundary, leaving me perpetually stuck. Even with small developers, these kinds of issues can't be glossed over or overlooked. The game clearly wasn't tested to any competent degree (or at all) and could have used another few months in the oven. 


I can't really recommend Blade Kitten, even at one of those COMPLETELY INSANE Steam sale prices. It's just not engaging enough and the issues with framerate and getting stuck are more than just a little annoying. If anything, this game kinda bums me out because it's clearly a webcomic artist's dream come true to snag a videogame deal based on the work they've invested themselves in, and the fans of the property deserved better as well. Instead, they got the equivalent of one of those bad licensed SNES/Genesis-era games, and the worst part is it's not even a complete game. Unless Atari hacks up the rights for the (supposedly) finished Episode 2, the Blade Kitten game is destined to be forgotten by pretty much everybody.

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