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Video Series: Neo-Retro Episode 1 – Kite (PC, 1080p60)

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Kite Steam Page

For our new series, Neo-Retro where I examine modern releases that look at feel retro. Today we are looking at the new action shooter from Lab Cat Games, Kite. A review code was provided for the purposes of this video, however selection of the games featured in Neo-Retro are at my sole discretion. Captured on a PC with an i5 4690K, GTX 1070, and 16 GB of RAM running Windows 10 64-bit OS (which is far more than this game requires).  For a full transcript (ie: written review) of this video, please click “read more” below.

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Written Transcript/Review

Welcome to Neo Retro, the new series where we take a look at contemporary releases that capture that retro feel.  For our first episode we’re looking at the frantic action shooter Kite.  While it may appear from this footage that Kite is a twin-stick shooter, I would say it’s more adjacent to that genre based on a few factors.  For starters, the game utilizes two ammo types and you use either different mouse buttons or gamepad triggers to shoot.  Aiming is still handled by the mouse or right stick accordingly, but you still are pushing buttons to shoot and that alone differs heavily from traditional twin-stick shooters like Smash TV or Geometry Wars.  In addition the game was clearly built for mouse and keyboard so although gamepad support has been implemented, the aim sensitivity is clearly mouse-driven.  Fortunately this title has been getting regular updates since release and the one on March 14th significantly improved the controller aim.

 

Kite is set in a cyperpunk future, but unlike most themes in the genre this is not a post-apocalyptic or even dystopian society and rather one of peace.  Of course you do need an antagonist so enter an army of evil robots that have seized control of a weapons base named Arch City. To combat these bots you employ your Human-Operated Remote Droid, or H-O-R-D for short, fully equipped with tons of upgradeable weapons and enhancements.  While battling through the many floors of Arch City you will also need to perform certain tasks, mostly related to destroying enemy forces, but also saving the trapped scientists within. The aesthetics speak for themselves on this one, with bright beautiful neon pixel art graphics to scratch that late 80s nostalgia itch.  Your H-O-R-D looks to me like Birgit Nilsson circa Rocky IV with enemy design inspired from beloved cyperpunk such as Terminator, Robocop, and Blade Runner.  The environments have this crazy organic fused with technology vibe that looks akin to outdoor environments in a contained indoor lab.  The soundtrack doesn’t disappoint either with solid fast-paced synth tracks that get you ready for the chaotic battles that face you. For a couple more bucks you can grab the soundtrack along with the game, which is a worthwhile upgrade if you find the soundtrack as appealing as I did.  

 

To accompany the visuals and audio is gameplay pulled right out of early 90s arcades.  Kite is a fast and frantic shooter that does not reward anyone who stands still.  You have to be on the move, dodging and shooting at all times to keep the distance between you and your foes as high as possible.  It helps that the bots are quite aggressive, but initially the combat is complicated and a bit confusing. There’s no real tutorial other than telling you what keys/buttons do, however given that you have two different weapon classes and alternative firing for each I really would have preferred a bit more explanation.  You primary class will consist of an energy gun that’s tethered to the right button/trigger and a ballistics gun, tethered to the left button/trigger. You can swap to the alt fire, which is often a souped up energy weapon that I found best against shields and synthetic humans like your droid. Swapping to your other weapon class will give you melee weapons.  Yes, this game has melee weapons that are tethered to each hand and quite frankly they are freaking awesome. Now, you don’t want to rush in at someone with an automatic weapon – something a good number of your enemies will have – but when they all cluster up and get you stuck in a corner this method can clear a group with ease. Think of the melee weapons as your frantic attempt to break away from a fatal group.  The alt fire of melee is usually an explosive weapon like a rocket launcher, that’s best served to keep large batches of enemies away from you should you successfully break away. If for any reason two different classes, each with a different weapon for your two hands, and a class-specific alt fire doesn’t sound complicated then you’ve clearly never played a shooter as frantic as this. You do eventually get the hang of it, but it took me probably 8 to 10 levels and a lot of trial and error to get there.  Once you’re familiar, these weapon systems make sense and are quite helpful in dealing with the crazy scenarios of each level, but at first it’s a bit daunting.

 

At the end of each level you are given a performance score along with some rewards that allow you to improve your droid.  There is a skill tree where you can level up different stats and characteristics in 4 major areas, which has a very limited distribution with every few levels.  Scrap is rewarded in larger abundance after each level, which allows you to upgrade every component of your droids body as well as crafting new weapons. The options and benefits of these upgrades and weapons is directly related to the number of scientists you’ve rescued, so it’s definitely in your best interest to find them all within each level.  I have to admit both the skill tree and upgrades aren’t explained the best and if you’re not paying attention it’s possible to completely skip that portion between levels. The way the skill tree upgrades work and the many many stats involved in every upgrade and weapon are also extremely deep and complicated. I love spreadsheet-worthy number tweaking more than most, but it was just a bit too complex at first.  After knocking out the first half dozen levels, however, you get much more familiar with the process and tweaks you’re performing.

 

In the end Kite proves itself to be a robust, deep, and insane shooter that will keep you on your toes from start to finish.  Like many games of this type, your first step will be to practice, second to beat the game, and finally start perfecting the runs on each level for bragging rights on ridiculous high scores.  I have to admit the difficulty is pretty brutal – although two updates have been released in the week it’s been out that have reduced the challenge – but there are unlimited lives so you won’t have any trouble completing it.  Now completing it with decent scores or without dying hundreds of times, that’s going to be reserved for only the best players. Those players are said to have the ability to kite, which is a term in twin-stick shooters for managing the distance to your foes while taking them out in large quantity.  Oh yeah and don’t die, which is probably the toughest requirement. I will admit that later in the game bosses and particularly difficult levels have the ability to drag out the experience a bit too long, but perhaps that’s the game telling you to improve your skills before attempting it. For those that loved titles focused on dodging enemies, blasting them in the face as you escape, and grinding for the best score as you perfect your run you’ll adore Kite.  I’m not that good at this title and I have to admit it was quite an enjoyable 5-6 hours from beginning to end despite my gripes.  I also have to commend developer Lab Cat Games for being able to capture the gameplay of this retro-inspired title whereas many of its peers only manage to nail the aesthetics.  

You can find Kite on Steam for Windows-based PCs, check out the links in the description to access the store page.  For Gaming History 101 and Neo-Retro, this is your host Fred Rojas saying Peace…Out…

Written by Fred Rojas

March 16, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Neo-Retro, Videos

Tagged with ,

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