Cutting through waves of enemies like they’re paper and navigating relatively linear levels at a furious clip can be rewarding, as anyone who’s set a game’s challenge slider to “casual” can attest. But at some point, simplistic gameplay simply becomes dull and the stakes need raising, either by escalating the challenge, or by imposing greater penalties for failure. Australia-based Krome Studios (of Spyro The Dragon reboots and Ty The Tasmanian Tiger) has developed the webcomic Blade Kitten into an episodic 2-D action-platformer with cel-shaded cotton-candy visuals and gameplay that provides a short-lived sugar rush, but there isn’t enough depth or difficulty to sustain the game past its sixth stage—let alone beyond episode one.
You play as cat-girl Kit Ballard, a “breaker” (bounty hunter) with a chip on her shoulder and a semi-sentient sword floating at her side. After having her spaceship totaled and her bounty swiped by snooty hydrogen-peroxide enthusiast Justice Kreel, Kit gets down to the business of slashing red-helmeted soldiers, scaling walls, and activating switches to clear a path to her quarry. Adequately acted, punchy cutscenes that echo the comic’s verbal sparring are intercut now and again, and costumes and upgraded weaponry are available for purchase—although like Kit’s special moves and parrying ability, new gear is more about peppering in some novelty than preparing for chancy encounters.
A platformer is only as good as its mechanics, and Blade Kitten is passable, though not particularly riveting. The double-jumping and clinging to walls is frustratingly loose at times, with Kit feeling like she’s taking orders via earpiece rather than being directly controlled. The slippery controls aren’t really a problem when faced with the game’s blade-, laser-, and Taser-wielding soldiers, however. A few button-mashing seconds are all it really takes to clear the field, and if your mashing isn’t frantic enough, rest assured that you activated a checkpoint half a screen back. Some quickly dispatched bosses and a few mounted encounters offer focused reprieves from the game’s usually expansive level design, and there’s some fun to be had spelunking the depths and following twisting trails in search of the game’s currency, “hex.” Still, although Blade Kitten offers more content than most XBLA contenders, it’s likely to wear out its welcome before players ever reach those last few levels.