Action games and puzzle games have long gone together in one form or another, and you could even say that one of the best games so far on Switch shares that meld of genres. Unlike Breath of the Wild however, Kamiko takes an entirely different stylistic and environmental approach – and ends up with a game that’s right up there in pure awesomeness. Oh, and did I mention it’s cheap?
That’s right folks, Kamiko is currently the cheapest game on my Switch – and it’s also one of my favourites. It puts you in the shoes of one of three Shrine Maidens (the titular Kamiko) who attempt to overthrow demons who have sealed the gates between heaven and Earth.
Armed with a unique weapon which varies depending on which character you choose, you’ll cut your way through a plethora of slightly different enemies which spawn in different areas of each level – and eventually the harder level bosses. Your main weapon action is activated by pressing or holding Y or A, while the entirety of the triggers are combined with B to offer sprint in equal measure. You’ll be able to move using either the directional buttons or the analog stick, and pause is mapped to X, +, and – just the same. The crazy amount of redundancy in the button setup means you’ll never have to panic when trying to execute an important action, and it also reinforces just how basic the movements and actions you’ll need in Kamiko really are.
Each level you plow through is styled and populated by unique and yet familiar types of enemies, with your job in each area being to push through and unseal four shrines. This is accomplished by feeding them the skill points you’ve collected from dispatching those enemies I mentioned, so make sure to chop down a healthy amount of foes on your way. Being that the game requires you to rack up those points in order to progress, you can’t just ninja your way around those around you as you won’t be able to unseal the shrine; no skill points collected means nothing to open the shrine back up with. It’ll cost you 100 points to open each of those shrines, so make sure to save up a healthy surplus – ’cause that’s not all you’ll need them for.
Also littered around each level are chests filled with various goodies. These goodies are often in the form of additional life (you start with four chunks), or additional skill points (and/or room for skill points) – though they also sometimes include another set of puzzle mechanics; keys.
The first type of key is just that; a key. You’ll get it from chests and have to carry it to a door with a keyhole in order to advance. Likewise, there are also orbs – which are paired with a pedestal to open a lock, and sometimes come in pairs (from separate chests). Both types of keys need to be paired with their respective locks in order to activate a way forward, however to get them there you must not get hit – as a single touch from the enemy means you have to return to the chest to get another key. This is complicated by the fact that carrying a key means you can’t sprint, which makes dodging a bit more of a task than it is normally.
These two types of keys and their usage offer a unique and fitting mechanic to have pitted directly against the action bits, especially as they require you to be sneaky and agile instead of destructive. They’re not the only bits that you have to worry about however, as there are still two more simplistic “door” mechanics we’ve not talked about; triggers and teleporters.
Triggers are more simple versions of lock and key puzzles, which will often activate simply by standing on a single trigger. Others require you to move an item to cover a second trigger, however they’re less common and there are certainly no triple trigger options of that sort. As for teleporters, they’re often revealed by using triggers – and can take you across vast distances in an instant. Appearing as yellow glowing bits on the map, they only connect to a single other point, and are basically fast-travel and/or a way to get to somewhere new. Simple, but useful.
Together, all these well-chosen mechanics come together to form quite a simplistic but fun to play game. You’ll spend most of your time hacking through enemies, collecting skill points, solving puzzles, and dodging enemies (when you’ve got things in your hands) – but there are also four or five boss battles to take on, and four secrets to uncover. The three characters also play very differently, so replay value is added by their different strengths and weaknesses.
Not enough to lure you in? Well how about those speedrun features, then! Though the game will probably take you an hour for each of the characters the first time through, you’ll be able to ninja your way through the game soon enough – and to help you track your progress (and compare to your friends) there are even statistics which are given and recorded in the game. At the end of each area you’ll get a play time, and in the character selection screen you’ll be able to hit “X” and bring up a menu which will allow you to choose “Stats.” You’ll be able to see your best times there, and of course screenshot them to compare with friends.
But that’s not all! Kamiko is not only a fun, cheap game with lots of replayability and quality options… it’s also a beautiful game in every regard. From art, to music, to gameplay, it stitches these things together with charming precision and thought. The areas you’ll explore all have their own shiny new theme and style, and the music that goes with it is very evocative of the retro games of the NES and SNES in the most interesting way. The chiptune melodies it presents you with while playing are very, very fitting to the style of game, and their appearance made me smile more than once on my many play-throughs (especially the tune from the second area). Finally, the gameplay sounds and actions are top notch; nary a glitch or issue with the game to be found in my many hours with it so far. Simply beautiful, and beautifully done to match.
So should you buy Kamiko? I think you already know that I’m going to tell you “yes.” It combines action style gameplay with some fitting puzzle elements, and wraps it in a gorgeous pixel art coat of paint with some rather epic tunes and sound effects. At this point I’d feel bad for not recommending it, so you should probably feel a little bad if you don’t go pick it up. It’s just that good.