On one hand Kaze and the Wild Masks is a well designed and engaging 2D platformer. On the other it’s shamelessly derivative and cribs heartily from a range of existing titles.
It could even be mistaken for a missing entry in the Donkey Kong Country series of games. An entry that is remarkably similar to DKC2, in fact. Not that that’s a necessarily bad thing of course, but we’ll get to that later.
You play as Kaze the rabbit, who has to save her friend from a curse that’s spread chaos amongst the local islands. So you have to jump and spin your way through a set of linear stages, all of which have their own gimmick.
In one you have to use plants to light your way through a dark jungle for example, and another you have to propel yourself around using mechanical crossbows.
Then there are the Wild Masks of the title, all of which give you different powers. One allows you to fly – whereas another propels you constantly forward.
Now if this doesn’t seem too much like Donkey Kong Country on paper, then you’d be right. But Kaze and the Wild Masks does try its best to, er, mask its inspirations.
But it doesn’t do a good job to anyone who has actually played those games. It copies nearly every aspect – Kaze’s hover jump is remarkably similar to Dixie Kong’s ponytail flutter, the crossbows act just like the barrels in DKC, and the flying segments feels just like the Squawks the parrot levels from DKC2.
Some similarities are just downright odd. The addition of barrels – a DKC mainstay – are present, but don’t feel like they need to really be there at all.
It makes the game feel like a shot for shot remake at times, and it’s mildly unsettling.
Despite this brazen copying, it’s undeniable that Kaze is still a lot of fun to play – largely as the controls are superb. We were worried that Kaze controlled a bit too much like Sonic at first, but she’s nowhere near as slippery – so you always feel in control of situations. Even if there’s enemies everywhere on-screen, like in the enjoyably chaotic boss encounters.
The range of level themes is also welcome, and the visuals – if never sensational – are crisp, detailed, and packed with character.
We’ll therefore admit Kaze’s slightly creepy adoration for 90s platformers – especially those developed by Rare – isn’t a huge issue if you’ve never played a DKC game in your life.
But the problem is, a lot of people have. What’s worse is that the entire Donkey Kong Country series from the SNES is on the Nintendo Switch Online service – and it’s cheaper to subscribe to that for a year than it is to buy Kaze and the Wild Masks.
So it means Kaze and the Wild Masks is a bit of a hard sell. On one hand it does everything it wants to exceptionally, but what it wants to do has already been done. And, arguably, much better.