Blade Kitten review: Not just for furries anymore

I remember a time when I could look at a girl with cat ears and whiskers and think nothing of it. Unfortunately, maturity and the internet have corrupted my view of catgirls, and now they seem at best cliched, and at worst creepy. It's a shame, because my 10-year-old self would have found Blade Kitten's Kit Ballard and the neon world she inhabits all kinds of cool.
%Gallery-94204% Blade Kitten is based on a comic series by Krome Studios co-founder Steve Stamatiadis. If you haven't read it, keeping track of all the different factions and lingo in Blade Kitten the game can be a doozy. Of course, it hardly seems worth the effort when Kit constantly shouts groan-inducing one-liners like "Win/Get!" and "Ding!" To quote Ms. Ballard, the overly-convoluted tale of her exploits is "total fail." If you do happen to get sucked into the narrative, be forewarned; Blade Kitten is episode one of a proposed two-part series, so don't expect much resolution here.

Where Blade Kitten does succeed is in its exploration. The game is a 2.5D side-scrolling action/platformer with a twist. Being a cat ... thing, Kit can climb a vast majority of walls and ceilings with ease. Her fairly comprehensive platforming repertoire includes wall runs, long jumps, triple jumps, and (my favorite) a move in which she thrusts her sword into a wall then spins herself upward from it. The auto-grabbing mechanic can feel too generous, making the world seem magnetic, but it's easy to forgive when scaling the scenery as lithe Kit is so instantly intuitive.

Her prowess is wisely employed by the level design, combining the linear flow of something like Sonic with the open-ended feel of Metroid, littered with varied paths and secrets. Scurrying around Blade Kitten's world gathering collectibles and currency is a joy.

A little more care in the combat and writing could have done wonders for the adventure.

No matter which path you take through the level, it's sure to be a pretty one. The anime-inspired cel-shaded look is clean and crisp and the terrain you traverse is varied and brimming with life. Environments range from markets that look like Naboo crossed with Persia, expansive green plains resembling an alien version of Florence, and subterranean gray/blue sewers, making Blade Kitten's scope formidably diverse for a digital title. If only the character designs were as inspired as the world they inhabit.

While the platforming excels, the action is lacking. Initially it seems promising, with a wide array of moves and weapons at your disposal, but this is all rendered superfluous thanks to toy soldier enemies that hardly put up any resistance. Button mashing yields wildly successful results, discouraging you from investing in the minutiae of the combat system. Making things worse, health regeneration makes it all too easy to avoid death, which is already robbed of any sting beyond respawning a few seconds back. It's a shame, as there's a solid foundation for combat that the game design never capitalizes on.

All the elements of a great game are here: gorgeous graphics, stellar controls, a robust move set -- yet Krome seems content to settle for mediocrity when placing them into a cohesive whole. A little more care in the combat and writing could have done wonders for the adventure.

Blade Kitten may not be the most sophisticated game in the world, but its simple pleasures manage to reclaim catgirls from disturbing otaku/furry fantasy fodder. If that's not an achievement, I don't know what is.

This review is based on the PSN retail version of Blade Kitten purchased by the reviewer.

Jeffrey Matulef is a handsome freelance video game journalist based in Portland, OR. His work has appeared in G4TV, Eurogamer and Gamasutra among other places.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.