Umihara Kawase BaZooKa is a hard title to pin down. Okay, perhaps that’s too much of a cliche – as ultimately it’s an arcade game with some nonsensical flourishes.
Sadly it doesn’t do anything particularly well. In fact it often feels like a step back compared to its predecessors.
Umihara Kawase is not a series with a rich history, but still commands respect in cult gaming circles. The first entry for the SNES set the foundations was what to follow in several titles across a range of systems including the Playstation, PSP, and DS.
Namely its focus on a ‘lure’ mechanic. It’s basically a hookshot that can help you climb vertically through levels, but more importantly help grab enemies and turn them into explosives.
Whereas in past iterations these mechanics have been used in large sprawling 2D levels, Umihara Kawase BaZooKa simplifies things and places you in single screen stages.
You can tackle levels with friends, alone, or compete against others online. The whole experience is fairly streamlined when it comes to options and modes – and this pared down approach should work. Yet this is a game that feels so lazy it’s hard not to feel a bit angry.
Several issues stem from the presentation, which makes the game feel like it’s an early beta build. Movement is fine, and the controls are generally responsive – but so many elements feel unfinished.
The way your character jumps so statically, the way the springs don’t even move when you bounce on them, the way you unconvincingly slide up ladders – it all feels so dead and devoid of life.
Which is some going considering the generally wacky tone. Enemies range from frogs to walking fish, and there’s a boppy soundtrack as well as good range of characters to play from.
But considering how it’s pared down the Umihara Kawase experience you’d expect it to make sure every element is perfectly and tightly designed.
Yet that’s not the case at all – it’s a game that should offer an engaging and electrifying arcade style experience, but ends up having all the charm and lasting appeal of a run-down penny slot machine. For the relatively high asking price this really should have been a lot better.