Experimental drugs, a clandestine organisation, a samurai with memory loss, time manipulation, and a huge dose of 80s B-movie madness combine to make Katana ZERO one of the most memorable 2D action-platformers of the year so far.
To say too much about the surprisingly deep and meaningful story would be straying into spoiler territory, but we can mention that the plot takes you through some of the shadier sides of the city as you assassinate your way to discovering the truth behind some rather untoward goings-on. The dialogue choices you make can affect the story in various ways, even potentially resulting in a very premature and abrupt ending,
The most exciting part if, of course, the action itself. Each level is a series of self-contained areas filled with enemies who must all be killed before moving on to the next screen. There are many ways to complete each level, so you can either take the easy route or experiment and get creative with your killing spree. Enemies die in one hit, but so do you, so it's never quite as easy as you think it's going to be. You're equipped with the usual attack, jump and dodge abilities, but - thanks to the experimental drugs you've been taking - you're also able to slow down and rewind time, which adds a neat twist to the gameplay.
Devolver has a knack for publishing some of the most stylish and striking looking games, and KZ is no exception. Old-school VHS tape fuzz and intentional glitches really make the visuals stand out from the crowd, and the excellent sound design and electro soundtrack surely deserve a few awards.
Our only minor issue is that KZ does get a little bogged down with its story at times. It's an undeniably intriguing tale, but roughly half of the 4-5 hours it takes to finish the game is spent talking to other characters. It's essential to take in the whole story when your narrative choices affect the outcome, but you may well find yourself wishing you could hurry things along to get back into the action. Despite this, Katana ZERO earns two thumbs up from us. Available now on PC and Switch at a very generous price, you can't really go wrong with this one.
KATANA ZERO / DEVELOPER: ASKIISOFT / PUBLISHER: DEVOLVER DIGITAL / PLATFORM: PC, SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW