Those gameplay basics are more than enough to fuel an entire game but Katana Zero goes the extra mile by ensure plenty of variety in its various missions. One focuses more on stealth, another on less subtle one-off weapons, and each has its own unique setting and assassination target.
You’re told from the start that you have to kill every goon you come across, but the game also features a simple dialogue system that allows you to interact with non-combatants. This allows you to, for example, charm a hotel receptionist or choose exactly how you engage with your therapist. It’s time-based as well, so not only can you lose your chance to say something but the other person might get angry if you interrupt them.
The game clearly wants to take its story seriously but just as it seems to get going the whole thing ends with what is essentially sequel-begging, as everything is left on a cliffhanger and all you can do is hope the game does well enough to ensure a second chapter. This sort of thing is bad enough in full price games – more than one of which has been left without any resolution thanks to such tactics – and it’s not something we expect from an indie game.
Despite the lack of closure this is an exceptionally well-crafted action game that manages to mix the familiar with the pleasingly unique. In that sense we’ll be more than happy if there is a sequel, and although we don’t have the ability to see the future we’d be willing to bet that Katana Zero will earn itself more than enough fans to justify a follow-up.
In Short: An elegant blend of 2D action and cyberpunk storytelling, that manages to make a very distinctive experience out of some very familiar indie tropes.
Pros: Excellent combat system, with some of the best use of slow-motion in years. Excellent presentation, with a surprisingly involved narrative and a simple but effective dialogue system.
Cons: None of the gameplay elements are exactly new, even if most of them are used extremely well. Truncated plot is very unsatisfying.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed) and PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: 18th April 2019
Age Rating: 16
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