Review: Kite (PC)

Developer: Lab Cat Games

Publisher: Lab Cat Games

Genre: Action, Adventure, Shooter, SHMUP

Rating: N/A

Platforms: PC

Price: $ 10.99

In the spirit of fairness, I have a confession: this is the first shoot ’em up game I have in my Steam library. I come at this game with very few expectations. And as an introduction to the genre, I have to say I’m impressed. Kite is an energetic and ultimately fun game that offers surprising depth. Unfortunately technical difficulties made what seemed to be an excellent game ultimately a disappointment.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: None

Violence: Lots. If you aren’t shooting your guns or swinging a laser sword, you’re either waiting for your ammo or energy to reload or else playing the game wrong. All violence only involves robots and machines of some sort, including the player character. Most are obviously mechanical, but some are very human like.

Sexual Content: The game opens with a panning shot of the main character’s whole body which could be considered sensual.

Positive Content: The world of Kite is a war-free utopia. Preventing the violence of the base the game takes place in from spreading is the overarching goal of the game. A major objective in most levels is finding and saving defenseless scientists who are in peril.

Review

If there is one expectation that I had going into this experience, it was that Kite would probably not offer an amazing storytelling experience. And in a sense I was right. The premise of the game is simple and straightforward. After years of perfecting a balance between technology and nature, humanity has produced a nearly perfect world free from war and conflict. However, as a perhaps ominous precaution, weapon bases still exist in secret. The game takes place in one such base known as Arch City, where the robots weapon systems have gone haywire and begun rampaging indiscriminately.

It is the very definition of an excuse plot. You can skip just about every moment of dialogue in the game and not feel at all lost. The controls are intuitive enough that you hardly even need to worry about reading the tutorials. And yet, if you do decide to pay attention, you find that the details the game includes are not superfluous. Rather, as living proof that even the most maligned tropes are not inherently bad, the plot justifies just about everything in the game.

Why can you restart a level immediately after you die and only lose some of the scrap you’ve collected for it? Because your character is a remotely piloted machine that can be rebuilt with that scrap. Why can’t you get all the upgrades right away? Because the higher-end ones require you to rescue a larger team of scientists to create. It’s clear that even though they knew not to put it front and center, the developers of Lab Cat Games cared enough about the story in Kite to integrate it seamlessly into nearly every aspect of it.

The game is visually interesting, it’s retro style serving it well. As befitting a world where technology and nature are intertwined, each level has both indoor and outdoor components. There is enough variety in both to be interesting to look at, and the level of destructibility the environment can go through in response to your battles makes the world feel responsive and real despite its simple graphics. On perhaps a more personal note, I like that the protagonist is not a stereotypical “sexy female character.” Rather than slim and petite, she’s stocky and looks like she can actually pack a punch.

The gameplay is divided up into two distinct halves. Between levels, RPG-like mechanics abound. You can see your character’s equipment and parameters at a glance. You have various ways to upgrade them, from new tech produced by the scientists you rescue to a skill tree you can invest points in after leveling up. One might worry that this might slow down the gameplay, but once you’ve started a level, it all fades into the background. All that matters in a level is your mastery of the rather intuitive controls. Kite takes the best parts of action-oriented gameplay and RPG mechanics and rolls them into one; you can plan out the perfect loadout for your character, then forget all about it and let bullets fly.

Each level builds on the previous ones in difficulty and complexity. As you progress through ever-increasing waves of mechanical foes, you have objectives to reach, usually in the form of a specific set of targets to blow up. As you progress, the game adds a larger variety of objectives, and you usually must tackle them in a particular order. Learning where your targets are in a level and how best to approach them is key to getting high ranks. This theme turns each stage into a puzzle concerning how to most efficiently go through it, but the constant action makes sure it’s never a tiring one.

All of the factors above combined to turn Kite into a genuinely enjoyable experience and excellent introduction to this style of game for me. Then, the worst possible thing happened: I encountered a game breaking bug. Upon reaching Stage 9, I was greeted with a black screen. The developers informed me this stage was the largest and created some slowdown on their less-advanced test machines. But no matter what I tried I couldn’t fix it. Uninstalling and reinstalling the game did nothing, as did closing literally every other program on my computer. Despite meeting and exceeding the minimum requirements to run the game, my computer simply couldn’t get me started on this stage.

This is an absolute shame, as before this point I had little to criticize about this game. I could have perhaps used a bit more difficulty in rescuing scientists. They have a health gauge, but I never saw an enemy intentionally attack them, and the levels do not let you finish unless you’ve saved all of them. Making scientist an optional collectible would have made upgrading feel more like a personal accomplishment. Perhaps scientists are in more immediate peril in hardcore mode? The game taunts me with this increased difficulty available after I complete the main game.

But as stated before, I have no idea what comes after Stage 9. The fact that I can’t help but enjoy this game makes my disappointment all the worse. I hope that the developers figure out and fix whatever problem this game is having. When that happens I know I’ll enjoy this game to its fullest. Until then, Kite is a game whose critical error prevents me from recommending it at this time.

Review code generously provided by Novy PR

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Johnathan Burton

Geeks Under Grace's resident Canadian, but they don't hold it against him. A lover of RPGs both electronic and tabletop, and story driven experiences in general. When not gaming, you can find him attempting to write and browsing the internet for random knowledge.

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