Kunai is a Metroidvania starring a killer tablet named Tabby who joins the fight against a robotic uprising fueled by an evil A.I.
Tabby is a ninja, and ninjas need a proper weapon. After being awakened by a commander in, what seems to be, a resistance force fighting against the robots, Tabby explores the remains of the base where he was held captive. In a pile of rubble, he finds a shiny red katana sticking out of a ravished robot. Wielding the blade, Tabby can now cut through boxes that blocked his escape route, and continue out of the facility into the bleak reality of the piles and piles of dead robots outside. But, with a red flicker, one of these undead robots springs to life and begins creeping towards our hero. A slash of his katana slices through the robot and a spray of hundreds of gears and bolts fly into the air, signifying the beginning of the revolution.
Kunai firmly emboldens the word action in action platforming. There are tons of evil robots to destroy, and with his katana — and many other ninja weapons you’ll eventually unlock including throwing stars — Tabby is armed to the teeth. His robotic adversaries aren’t without their own strengths, either, in numbers or otherwise. Some larger machinations are purposefully rigged to explosively blow sky-high if damaged, causing an area explosion which can take a serious chunk of Tabby’s health. Luckily, the katana that serves as his primary outlet of rage against the robots, also pulls in energy with every kill, refueling his health bar.
Eventually, you’ll gain access to use the kunai, which serves as a grappling hook to propel you around levels with ease. You can use it to climb, swing, hang and simplify your jump trajectory, taking the guesswork out of trivial platforms. Almost immediately after you receive your first kunai, you stumble upon a second one, which provides you with even more opportunities for aerial acrobatics. You’re not awarded by any means for doing so, but stringing combos from swinging and slicing through enemies as you breeze your way through rooms of robots feels really good to execute.
Speaking of execute, Kunai is a really charming game. Whether it’s the adorably emotive characters or the rich, detailed environments where each room tells its own story adorned with a purposefully limited color palette, there’s a lot to love here. Tabby’s face lights up his tablet screen and his emotion is described through a series of emoji-like expressions on his display. He appears violent when slashing, shows a surprised face when running, and displays anguish when hurt. It’s a nice touch that adds a bit of character to Tabby without being over the top.
The music in Kunai really makes the game for me, above everything else. Composed by Pongball, it has a futuristic tenacity that showcases the emotion of the bleak landscape, but with a sprinkling of notes that demonstrate hope amidst peril. A combination of Chiptune and Synthwave industrial-sounding styles, it’s sure to keep you jamming as you are slicing baddies through their CPUs.
Kunai is an absolute blast to play and showcases often how great detail with clever art-design choices and brilliantly crafted level design make a proper Metroidvania. While the gameplay I experienced in the demo I played wasn’t terribly difficult, the smart and fulfilling boss fight at the end provided a peek into the challenge I’m sure to find when the full game releases.
Kunai is releasing on February 6th, 2020 on Steam and Nintendo Switch. Check out their Twitter and website for more information. I played Kunai at PAX South 2020 earlier this year.