Kaze and the Wild Masks Review
Reviewed by Gavin Herman
Platform Tested: Xbox Series X
A Cutesy Platformer that sneaks some surprising challenge
Do you like Rare's platformers? If so, you'll probably enjoy Kaze and the Wild Masks. It's a playful throwback starring a bunny who must save her home from a wicked curse. The story's genuinely not worth going into, so let's focus on the platforming.
First off, Kaze and the Wild Masks is gorgeous. The character animations, from Kaze herself to the sentient vegetables she fights, are brilliant and the environments are chunky, vibrant and memorable, taking cues from Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man X and other early-90s classics. It's simultaneously very familiar and quite wacky, and the light tone helps keep the tone light even when the game cranks up the challenge.
It's easy to forget that those bouncy 90s mascot platformers were often brutally difficult, and Kaze and the Wild Masks revels in wrapping up your butt, putting a neat little bow on it and handing it to you. Precision is the name of the game, and although the early stages look like a breeze, it doesn't take long before they demand your full attention.
Fortunately, Kaze and the Wild Masks has a modern attitude to game design. There are no lives, and there are plenty of checkpoints, so the game never feels unfair and the challenge is a matter of mastery rather than perseverance. Sure, it might take more than a few tries to beat a particularly arduous jumping puzzle or defeat a particularly obnoxious boss, but it's always satisfying. Even if you don't really like difficult games, Kaze and the Wild Masks might just change your mind.
The challenge is compounded by the various collectables: Crystals, bonus gems and letters. Collecting K, A, Z and E in a level unlocks art, bonus gems can unlock new levels and you unlock a crystal when you collect all 100 in a level. You don't need to collect any of this to beat a level, but Kaze and the Wild Masks is the kind of game that awakens your inner completionist and the collectables add a lot of replayability.
Some levels feature the titular Wild Masks, which act a bit like the animal buddies in Donkey Kong Country. The shark mask lets you swim in deeper waters, the eagle lets you fly, the tiger can hold onto walls and the lizard turns the game into an autoscroller. The masks add a lot of variation and makes levels a bit less predictable, but they're not always successful: You need to tap to flap your wings when using the eagle mask, and the flying sections don't feel quite as tight as the rest of the game.
Kaze and the Wild Masks might not win many points for originality, but it's a labour of love and if you're into old-school platformers, it's an essential experience. Whether you revel in a good challenge or just want to see why people miss those 90s platformers, Kaze and the Wild Masks is proof there’s plenty of fun to be had going back to the past.
- Tough but rewarding
- Great pixel art
- Tight controls
- Stiff animations
- Brutal difficulty spikes
- Flying sections are not great