This Review is for the PS3, XBox 360 and PC releases of Blade Kitten.
Describing Blade Kitten as a platformer isn't entirely accurate, as that term implies that there is some risk involved in traversing the game's terrain. Sure, there are things out to kill you, but there are no bottomless pits, no damage from falling, and no real incentive to execute death-defying leaps that will look impressive to your family members who find watching you playing a video game like witnessing some voodoo ritual where you, the mystical shaman, is one with the controller in your almost trance-like ability to "know what to mash to make it do." You can pull of visually impressive leaps, sure, but if you miss your mark, usually your only real punishment is having to backtrack. I guess a more appropriate term for this game would be a "collect-em-up." Or clmup. That will catch on.
You star as Kit Ballard, from the web comic on which this game is based. I've played episodic download games based on webcomics before, and let me tell you, they are always best-selling triple A titles. There is no conceivable way the developer could take a loss on this one. Kit is a catgirl, which is like some horrific abomination from Greek myth birthed by the union of a mortal woman and a god in feline form. She's also a space bounty hunter, which means she likes to give ice-heads a face full of bear mace and talk about the saving power of Christ. Anyway, Kit's ship gets blowed up real good in the opening cutscene, so you have to guide her through each level while slaughtering grunts and collecting fat stacks of loot.
Movement is controlled with the L stick, which is honestly pretty awkward, and the D-pad isn't used for anything. Apparently the controls were set up like this to facilitate the game's touted "scrambling exploration." Kit can cling to most surfaces, and is able to seamlessly transition from hanging from a ceiling to clinging to a wall. And for the most part, it works, if you're careful in how you roll the analog stick along the terrain you're transitioning to. You're able to walk up to a ledge and crawl down along the wall, but if you just push the stick straight you'll end up walking off the ledge and falling. It takes some getting used to, and I still fall off sometimes when I mean to move from a wall to a ceiling. You have a double jump, and you can wall jump, although if you rebound from one wall and then double jump back to that same wall, it won't let you rebound again. There are certain parts where you're forced to wall jump because you'll just slide off of certain surfaces if you try to cling to them, such as pipes. There are also ominous black walls that you can't cling to or rebound from at all, and of course there are electrified spikes. Electrified. Spikes. Yeah. You can also slide by pressing down-left or right and the jump button, which can get you under tight spaces and kill some enemies. There are also certain small platforms, like floating boulders or the ends of poles, with a glow effect that you automatically home in on when you jump to them.
Being a 3D game on a 2D plane, movement felt a little languid to me at first. I got this same impression the first time I played Bionic Commando Rearmed, so I think it's just a matter of perception. Kit does kind of lazily skip along when she walks, and climbing is about the same speed as in Strider. You do have a regenerating stamina meter that lets you sprint or climb a little faster by holding the R2 button, but it drains fast. If you press jump while sprinting you can execute a leap with huge range but no added height. Double jumping and using your blade's ranged strike also consume stamina.
Oh, yeah, the blade. You're followed by a sentient floating sword what for mincin' up mofos and clearing breakable walls. Your normal attack is fast but short range, and your ranged attack has a slight delay before it lashes out. You can use your normal attack in all directions to break certain walls, floors, and ceilings and to collect hex (money) that's just out of reach. The ranged attack can pass through walls and collect certain items (but not chests, which you have to stand in front of and press the use button to collect). Holding down the normal attack button will create a stamina consuming forcefield, and holding L2 will cause Kit to use the blade to anchor herself to the ground, which is necessary for some puzzles. Your health regenerates over time, with Kit's anime-style face over the health bar changing expressions based on your amount of health. When her face becomes enraged, you can hold R2 and press attack to execute some slo-mo devastating attacks. You also have a ground pound you can do by double jumping, then holding down and attack.
The levels are huge, filled with hidden areas and bafmodads to collect. Your big goal here is money, which you can use to buy shit from the menu, including health and stamina upgrades, new swords, and extra costumes. It will take you what seems like a half hour to finish a single stage if you try to find everything. At nearly every obstacle you come to, there's guaranteed to be an extra path to take nearby. They aren't exactly alternate routes, at least not most of the time, and you'll usually have to do a little backtracking to get back on the right path to progress through the level. The camera will zoom in and out based on your surroundings, so you can bet that a secret entrance is usually located just off screen. You can use the R stick to track the camera around a little to aid in your search. Shit can look pretty small when the zoom goes full wide, so I hope you're playing on a big TV. Your enjoyment of the levels will hinge on how much patience you have to try and collect every little thing. If you opt to just blast through the levels and reach the goal, I could see how the game could be considered shallow. Nearly all the money you find comes from exploring though, so if you're looking for a "to-the-point" level experience, this probably isn't the game for you.
In the second level you get a freaky little flying lizard thing named Skiffy, who you need to solve puzzles and collect hex at preset points. An icon will pop up indicating that you need to press the use button to send him out. It's kind of pointless, but if you keep an eye on him, he tends to gravitate toward hidden paths as you move through the level. Later you can ride a tauntaun-like creature called a noot, which can break rocks with its head if you use the run button. You can also do a midair dismount and doublejump to reach high places, and you don't even have to allow him to fall to his death in the process!
Much of a big shit has been made by the press for this game of the professionally voiced cutscenes, starring some people I've never heard of. Look, if you drop names that don't make me go, "Hey, he was in Metal Gear Solid!" then you're going to have to provide some examples for their work in order for me to care. Anyway, the cutscenes are competently acted, they're just stupid. I got sick of Kit and blonde rival chick's Tom and Jerry routine real fast. Maybe they should have taken a page from Tom and Jerry's playbook and remained silent. I have no familiarity with the Blade Kitten web comic, but I doubt anyone will give a shit about the story if they're not already a hardcore fan. I'd just as soon they scrimped on the voice acting and knocked 5 bucks off the price. Kit's incidental voice clips aren't bad. She does say some webtard phrases like "Win Get!" She sounds too much like a normal human being and not like how I imagine a catgirl would sound, but I guess I'm being stupid by asking for a more annoying voiceover. I really get sick of her saying "easy boy" when riding the noot or "nope!" when I try to make her do something I'm not supposed to. The grunts you fight talk in made up radio code ("Situation: Oscar, Mama, Golf!"), which is funny at first, luckily they don't do it all the time so it never becomes too annoying.
To sum it up, Blade Kitten is a Metroidvania's exploration meets Wario Land's avarice meets Strider 2's terrain navigation and combat, without the latter's desire to constantly murder you over a safety net of infinite continues (seriously, that game is an asshole. It's like, "Oh, you died again. What's that? You want to see the rest of the game anyway? Fine, go ahead. Pussy.") It's all about finding as much crap as possible. There's no real punishment if you fuck up the platforming, dying just sends you back to the last checkpoint, and there's no time limit outside of some crap you can do for achievements. I can see how someone seeking a hardcore action platformer would find it too casual, but if you like finding secret shit, at least give the demo a try. It lets you play the entire first stage, and it's huge enough to give you an idea of whether you should buy it or not. Being an episodic download game though, I hope they can bring enough new things to the table in the next installment to justify the $15 price tag, especially for an IP this new to games. Oh well, if you don't like it, there's always the latest 8-bit version of Mega Man. I hear that in the next one, Auto goes to jail for insider trading, but he escapes from a minimum security prison and creates an army of robots for revenge. But who gave him the mysterious tip that precipitated this course of events?!