Developer: Studio Pixel
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina, iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

KeroBlaster is an iPhone game from Studio Pixel, which should excite gamers if only because it’s from the creator of Cave Story: a Japanese homebrew game that spread enough to get published by Nicalis for a variety of other platforms, and is absolutely amazing. KeroBlaster takes a more level-based approach as more of a standard action-platformer. But it’s a fantastic example of being designed for its platform, and one of the best examples of authentic Japanese gaming in a world where so many games are heavily inspired by the region’s developers and their design principles. Nothing beats the real thing.

KeroBlaster-08Where KeroBlaster winds up being extremely clever is in its control. There are two arrows for moving the froggu protagonist, who goes on missions for the Cat and Frog corporation. There’s a jump button, but a three-way selector for firing. This has the player fire in the direction of their choice, with the ability to stop or switch with ease. It takes a lot of the stress out of worrying about firing at enemies, and does a lot to both simplify the interface, and make combat fun to play around with in a way that doesn’t feel lacking because it’s been built for mobile. Also, the game manages to build its combat around the idea that players can’t fire downward, with that being something players have to adjust to, and use their multiple weapons intelligently with. Boss fights prove to be challenging, but not frustrating to play.

KeroBlaster isn’t technically compatible with the iPad, but it does work on it just fine: the buttons are a bit large, but the game is still perfectly playable on it, with no doubts. The game also looks great with its pixel art. There’s a NES-esque vibe to the proceedings, though the art is a bit more detailed than most NES games. Still, this is a pixel art paradise.

KeroBlaster-02There’s a currency system where players earn coins throughout the game in progressively greater amounts in order to buy weapon upgrades, permanent health increases, and temporary items like health, one-ups, and a hearts jar that will revive players with full health immediately if they die. These can be bought at the halfway point of each level, and I have two issues with this whole system. First, weapon upgrades can only be bought at the halfway point. There’s a health store when players die to buy more health and 1ups, but not to get weapon upgrades until midway through levels. Second, some of the item costs for 1ups and heart jars feel a bit too expensive, especially compared to weapon upgrades. The game is challenging, but not to an excessive degree, at least: keep at it and success can come.

KeroBlaster is another fantastic game from the creator of Cave Story. It strikes a great balance between goofiness, challenge, and design in a way that must be played.

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