Kaze and the Wild Masks review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Soedesco
Developer: PixelHive
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I don?t think I?m exaggerating when I say that retro-influenced platformers are a dime a dozen these days. Literally every week?s eShop update includes at least two or three 2D platformers, and very few of them do anything remotely new or interesting. To stand out requires being something very special.

Kaze and the Wild Masks stands out.

It does so by perfectly capturing everything about the era that inspired it. It doesn?t just look like a game that could?ve come out on the Sega Genesis or SNES, it feels like one, too. The way the characters look, the way it controls, the way the levels are designed — all of this will feel very familiar to anyone who lived through that era in the first place.

It also helps that the game doesn?t feel like it?s trying to punish you for daring to play it. A lot of retro-influenced games seem to think that the whole era was nothing but Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and try to max out the difficulty level right from the get-go. Kaze and the Wild Masks, by contrast, seems to understand that many of those older games were a little more forgiving, and gradually eases you into the difficulty, with the odd spike here and there to test you. It also features a more relaxed mode with fairly generous checkpoints, if that?s more your speed.

But really, difficulty aside, the whole thing brings up memories of the days of going shopping at Kmart or Zellers and running off to the electronics section to play a level of Sonic while my mom shopped. Everything here is just done perfectly, from the way each level hides a pair of secret bonus areas, to the way the enemies are themed around evil vegetables, to the way you can find those titular masks to unlock new abilities. The levels are just the right length, too, and different enough from each other that it never feels like you?re just doing the same thing over and over again.

Normally this is where I?d note some flaw or issue that stops Kaze and the Wild Masks from being absolutely perfect, but I can?t think of a single complaint. It?s just a phenomenally well-done that captures its influences without being completely indebted to them, and it?s one an early contender for one of my favourite games of the year.

Soedesco provided us with a Kaze and the Wild Masks Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A