Blade Kitten feels like the product of a series of highly organised focus groups consisting of hyperactive, Jetix-viewing tweens and their confused, desperate parents, all seeking the perfect videogame to shut the little twerps up and give them something to do for a week’s school holiday other than filling the family dog with Silly Putty.
Thus, we have a pink-haired cat-girl with a sassy American teenage voice, some lumbering Master Chief-style enemy soldiers to easily outwit, a cute Pokémon-style muttering animal sidekick, and a whole heap of colourful (yet edgy!) 2.5D platform levels to bound around, collecting green and purple things, all for little discernable reason.
Protagonist Kit has a floating sword that can be used to dispatch said moronic spacemen, and takes part in a variety of asinine cut-scenes with other cute, sassy girls, with a few choice cuts of flirtatious banter. She also favours a spot of internet geek speak, chirruping “Win get!” or “Fail!” as her fortunes rise or fall.
The platforming itself, however, isn’t actually as bad as all this cynical window dressing might suggest. The massive amounts of inertia present whenever you try to turn the feline flapper around may annoy to begin with, as will the camera, bobbing and panning around the screen at speeds our old eyes couldn’t process without submitting to minor motion sickness. But there’s no denying that Kit’s veritable armoury of skills, including climbing, projectile hurling, homing jumps and wall-jumping, are an enjoyable set of talents to pull off and chain together.
The level design can sometimes fail to fully utilise the character’s potential, though, with distinct pacing problems making some levels drag horribly next to some shorter, peppier outings. Though the action tries to sell itself as ‘frenetic’, Kit’s rapidly diminishing energy bar means she can’t run for as long as you’d like either, resulting in occasional tumbles from a great height as a jump eludes you after too great a run-up, and leaves nothing but gritted teeth and a long climb back up to the top. Still, the endless amounts of collectables will always make a wrong turn feel like a worthwhile proposition.
The game’s overall sense of happy frivolity and open verticality, in fact, kept putting us in mind of Climax Studios’ Rocket Knight sequel of a few months back except, inexplicably, done with rather more panache and fun. If something with such commercial origins can stand toe-to-toe with such a respectable platformer, it deserves some amount of respect.
As the game progresses, there’s more and more variety present. You’ll get to ride a Yoshi-like dragon/camel thing across a fast-scrolling country landscape, run from screen-filling bosses, and meet a whole host of weird characters. Just like the busy cartoons it seems to draw from, Blade Kitten just never lets up, and its sense of jubilance and enthusiasm may just win you over if you give it long enough to do so.