Kraino Origins review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on October 19th, 2022
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: PERPLEXING PLATFORMER
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This action platformer is unapologetically old school, for better and for worse.

Developer: GameAtomic

Price: $1.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Throwback-style games can be hard to get just right. Sticking to old design principles can make a game feel too simple or obtuse, but if you add in too many modern twists suddenly you're making something that just looks old. Kraino Origins doesn't have these problems, though. This platformer feels like it dropped out of a Super Nintendo and satisfies mostly because of its varied and interesting level design.

Skeleton with a scythe

Kraino Origins fits right into the same mold of tons of 16-bit era action platformers. You play as a cartoonish skeleton with a scythe who--through a brief intro--you learn was apparently reanimated to a weapon to be used for good. In practice, this means running through levels full of zombies, vampire bats, mermen, and more until you get to a boss who you then cut down with your trusty scythe.

Things are similarly straightforward in the control department as your tools for beating these levels include just a jump, attack, and mid-air attack button. Oddly, Kraino Origins contains one other control button, but it is never explained in the game's opening tutorial and also doesn't appear to do anything (more on that later).

Level lord

The simplicity of Kraino Origins wouldn't work without some great level design backing it up. Fortunately, every new stage in the game is full of new enemies and hazards, most of which follow a "tough-but-fair" logic that establishes an almost Mega Man-like difficulty curve. This is to say you will likely die a few times on your first encounter with new enemies or bosses, but learning and adapting to these situations is all part of the fun.

On dying, Kraino Origins sprinkles a few checkpoints across each of its levels that you spawn back to if you take three hits. Death also causes you to lose some collectible treasure which mostly just seems to be an arbitrary measure of "score" on top of overall progress through the game. There is no apparent limit to the number of times you can die, but the distance between checkpoints is such that you need to prove a legitimate degree of proficiency with each level's new tricks to make it through.

Devil in the (lack of) details

On top of gathering treasure and killing bosses, Kraino Origins also has some hidden collectibles in levels and branching paths to discover. These things add to the game's replayability and contain some significant rewards for the curious that make progress forward a little easier. If you ever get tired of the color palette in Kraino Origins, you also unlock new filters as you progress through the game that are fun to use.

The only thing I'm a little perplexed by in Kraino Origins is how it hides so much information from the player. In true throwback game style, it's easy to never learn (or learn by accident) that there are special powers you can unlock and collect or a merchant hidden in certain levels who can sell you upgrades. Also, it seems that Kraino Origins left at least one move out of its touch controls, as playing with a bluetooth controller allows you to do an additional scythe-spin attack that you can't perform otherwise.

The bottom line

There's a lot to enjoy about Kraino Origins, but you have to have the patience to go and find all of it. It is fortunately very upfront about what kind of game it wants to be, but even then there are secrets hidden beneath the surface that are easy to miss and can very well sour you on the experience if you do.

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