KAMIKO is one of those Switch random games I happened to pick up during a sale, not knowing much about it, while in the middle of some other games. I bought it well over a year ago, but it's been sitting there in backlog so long I'd forgotten what it was about. Lately I've been in a mood to stay in bed and play games on my Switch, so I jumped way back into my Switch game backlog and found KAMIKO, a short game that was just the thing I needed.. KAMIKO is a pixel style, top-down action-adventure where you play a chosen priestess to save the world from a hoard of demons.
I knew very little going in to KAMIKO, so I was surprised that when I started a game it asked me to choose between one of three protagonists. There's three different shrine maidens, distinguished from one another by their type of weapon and attacks. I actually had a really hard time picking which one to go with, since I liked the look and style of all 3 and wasn't sure which weapon I'd like best. In the end, I went with my instinct of always going with the a short-range, dagger-wielding, fiery-looking option and chose Hinome. It turns out she attacks with a dagger only as a secondary move, as she has a powerful boomerang you that takes out several enemies when launched a distance. A short introduction lets you know that you, the chosen priestess or "kamiko", must break the seals on the "Torii" gates and face the demons to cleanse this realm. Every area you go through is different, but they all have similarly decayed and overgrown look that speaks to the state of the current world.
There's not much in the way of a tutorial, which is fine for KAMIKO since it has fairly straightforward gameplay. However, halfway through my first playthrough I realized there was a "manual" you could access at any point. If it wasn't for happening upon it on the menu, I wouldn't have realized you can hold down the attack button the power up a special move. You accumulate points in your SP bar by killing more enemies and getting big combos. KAMIKO encourages you to hack and slash quite a bit in order to get the highest number of combos, which I enjoyed doing. You spend these points in opening chests, gates, and using a special attack. Enemies continually spawn, even in areas you just passed through, so you'll have no problem getting enough points. I think the only time I found myself running out of combo point to use was during the final boss fight, where I was spamming my special attack. KAMIKO isn't really so much about puzzles as much as it is about cutting your way through countless enemies, but it involved a few in order to reach all parts of the maps. One aspect that turned out to be weirdly difficult was just carrying a key or orb from one location to another. It seems like this shouldn't have been a challenge, but getting a key to its door which is about 6 screens away is really messy when enemies will always continue to spawn in your path and dropping the key means starting over from the start. On the last level, I was stuck on this part for way too long. I don't know if they intended for this to be the hardest part of the game, but it definitely was. The bosses were decently challenging, too, but starting the fight over with them was a lot less frustrating and usually you'd learn their patterns the second time around.
KAMIKO is one of those rare games that actually enticed me to play through it a second time. I was mostly curious to see how the game would be different using a different character, so I decided to play as Yamato, who wields a powerful sword. I realized right away that her attack style was way more my style of being fast and headfirst, so it made me want to continue playing. My second run was almost twice as fast as my first run - both because I already had the experience and because this character felt a lot faster to me. I did start a third run as Uzume, the archer, but I found her long-range attacks a little more tedious and didn't think I could beat my best time with her. There's one secret option on the start menu for KAMIKO that shows up as "???" if you haven't unlocked it - I was worried I could only unlock it if I beat the game as all three maidens. All I'll say is there's actually a different way you unlock this mode - it's not about beating the game as all 3 characters.
KAMIKO is a simple but well-made, catchy adventure that has quite a bit of replay value. Many players will be motivated to play again in order to beat their clear time, to find in-game secrets, or to play every character. There's not too much at all in the way of story, but it's good fun to slash a lot of little monsters at once and rack up points. The pixel art and retro music are both excellent and fit well for this fast-paced, colorful little game that's perfect on-the-go on the Switch. I recommend it especially for fans of retro Zelda-likes and timed dungeon challenges.
KAMIKO is available for PC, Switch, and PS4
Played on: Switch
Last Played: 10/29/2020
Playtime: 3 hrs