PAX East 2014: Hands-on: Kero Blaster

Friday, April 11th, 2014

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Kero Blaster - Logo |  oprainfall

I imagine the people most interested in Kero Blaster know what to expect. Based on the footage from the first trailer revealed shortly before PAX East 2014 began, one could potentially think–it’s another 2D action game from Pixel. And it looks great! On a surface level, it may look similar to Cave Story in terms of its weaponry and play-style. But I suppose my main purpose in writing up these impressions is to say…well, it’s not as much like that game as you’d think.

Before I do that though, a little about Studio Pixel. All of Daisuke Amaya’s games were crafted by him alone–until Kero Blaster. Without going into too much detail on that (stay tuned for my interview with Pixel coming soon), Pixel has become a kind of legend in the Japanese indie scene for his talents when it comes to…how to aggressively shoot things with an amazing 8-bit style soundtrack in the background. Chief among his exploits is Cave Story–a game I have a much recorded history with.

Kero Blaster - An Old Screenshot | oprainfall Kero Blaster - Another Old Screenshot | oprainfall

Back to the task at hand: Kero Blaster is definitely “another Pixel game”, but it is far from another Cave Story. I definitely got the impression that this was a project Amaya built from the ground up. It’s not as though it was “based off Cave Story” or will be accused of being “Cave Story 2.0”; there are many things that exemplify this. Environments feel more detailed than anything I’ve seen from Studio Pixel thus far. And the characters/enemies–while certainly possessing the charm of his typical pixel art–were definitely unique, and sometimes intimidating.

Instead of giving you an HP gauge, Kero Blaster has hearts for a life meter. I was only given two–which means enemies could only hit me twice before my number was up. Some enemies drop hearts, some…really like to take them away, for lack of a better phrase. The enemies seemed smarter than most foes you’d find in Pixel’s other games, even in the one level I played (which I assume isn’t that far into the final game). If you die too many times, it’s Game Over. But there are checkpoints that appear at key points in each level…frequently enough, in my opinion.

Kero Blaster - Things Have Changed | oprainfall Kero Blaster - Coming Soon! | oprainfall

Weapons aren’t upgraded by defeating foes, but instead by making purchases with coins dropped by foes. A lot of times, I was forced to decide between upgrading a weapon to make myself more powerful (but remain vulnerable), or upgrade my maximum number of hearts (for less vulnerability, but less power). I think it’s a game that’s going to make you think about your play-style, especially if there’s a ton of variety in the bosses you face, and many hidden things to find in the game’s various levels (I found a secret or two, for sure).

Kero Blaster is sure to provide a meaningful experience for those who know very well of Pixel’s work, as well as those who aren’t as familiar. If you’re excited for the game already, this is one of those instances where I think it’s appropriate for me to say, well…stay excited! It’s coming on May 11th for PC and iOS. For more information, follow Playism or Studio Pixel. And don’t forget to check out Pink Hour, a sort of…free bonus that may be enough to whet your appetite between now and the game’s release!