Akane the Kunoichi might be a modern game, but with an unapologetic retro heart. It’s the sort of 2D platform game that was ten-a-penny in the 8 and 16 bit era, but sadly now seems to have fallen out of favour. A shame, really, because Akane the Kunoichi shows there’s still life in the old game yet.
Akane is a warrior. One day, whilst going off to meet the love of her life, she sees him being kidnapped by another woman and a bunch of bald geezers (I’m not making this up – it’s all in the game’s intro). In response, Akane does what any self-respecting warrior woman would and sets off to rescue her beloved, battling her way through over 15 levels of platforming fun.
Akane the Kunoichi might not be terribly original, but it’s great to play. The platforming element has been well implemented with some nicely designed levels and gameplay that rewards patience and learning. There are some nice touches which add a bit extra to the gameplay and help to keep it feeling fresh (getting swept away if you linger too long in a waterfall or flood is a particularly good one). Enemies always in the same place, so each time you die, you learn from your mistake and next time make a little more progress, which makes for a rewarding experience overall.
The inevitable slippy-slidey ice world
Like any platformer, it does have its frustrations. In time-honoured tradition, some jumps require pixel perfect positioning, others a leap of faith off a platform with nowhere obvious to land. And, of course that annoying staple of the genre – the disappearing platform – puts in an inevitable appearance. However, like all good platforming games, it’s addictive and every time you die, you just give a brief sigh and try again.
If you view the game from a retro perspective, then the presentation is excellent. Level graphics are on the small side, but have that cutesy, old school look, as though they have just stepped out of a Megadrive or SNES. Graphics are crisp and clear with nicely animated and colourful backdrops that set the scene and add to the atmosphere.
Each of the characters is full of appeal and easily recognised (different bad guys have different abilities and remembering this will help you defeat them). The animation is fluid and characters move at a decent speed, but top prize has to go to the end of level baddies. These are scarily big and whilst they retain the cute look typical of the rest of the game, they are quite disturbing in their own way!
Get away from me, you big bully!
Sound is excellent – again, providing you turn your mental clock back 25 years. Suitably oriental tunes accompany the levels and, like the graphics, help to generate a distinctive atmosphere. Sound effects are fairly sparse, but work well, although the shouts from your character every time she does something amazing can become a little wearing.
For once on an iOS game, I’m happy to report that the controls are actually rather good and have clearly been thought out. The basic controls work extremely well (they can be configured differently if they don’t suit you) with a virtual D-Pad controlling movement and on-screen buttons for jumping, shooting and smart bombs. The buttons are well placed and the right size so that they don’t get in the way of the action, but there’s little risk of your fingers slipping off them. Crucially they are very responsive. Leaping off walls (to climb) can be a little bit of a pain but you’ll soon get the hang of it. The game scores even more highly because it supports the iCade which, if you have one, makes the controls even more responsive and more fun. There are a few developers who could learn a thing or two from Akane the Kunoichi.
OK, so it’s not the most challenging of games. With only 15 levels, you’ll reach the end sooner or later. Even going back to each level to make sure you grab each of the three hidden treasure bags on each level is not going to take that long or prove that tricky. This is probably the game’s most serious flaw: once you have fully completed all the levels, there’s no real reason to return to the game.
Still, the game only costs 79p which frankly feels like theft. Even taking into account the relatively short-term challenge on offer, I’d happily have paid more than that. If old school platformers are your thing, then you should check out Akane the Kunoichi.