Kaze and the Wild Masks
Kaze and the Wild Masks -- A Platformer From The Heart
Kaze and the Wild Masks is a 2D action platformer that draws inspiration from Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong Country, and many other classic 2D games published by SOEDESCO. The publisher, best known for developing its Ridge Racer-inspired arcade racing game Xenon Racing, had made third-party tie-ins for franchises including The Fast and the Furious in recent times.
Developed by Brazilian developer PixelHive, Kaze and the Wild Masks is a passion project from the developers as many press releases and Q&A’s all reflect on how this initially gave birth as a small platforming title prior to the project being greenlit.
Meet Kaze --- New Girl On The (Platforming) Block
The story trailer released mere weeks before the launch of the game tells the story of an anthropomorphic rabbit named Kaze who must save her friend after being abducted by a curse. With all the love and care put into Kaze and the Wild Masks, is this an underrated indie classic up there with the likes of Freedom Planet?
Beginning with an introduction that’s similar to the story trailer mentioned earlier, the intro is expanded upon, showing Kaze and her friend entering a tomb whereupon interacting with a ring, begins to steal the soul of her friend, trapping him inside. The spirit saves Kaze from the destruction of the tomb and Kaze begins her journey in freeing her friend from the unfortunate curse.
Kaze and the Wild Masks Is 2D Charm With Modern QOLs
Immediately the player is treated to a level select screen, showing off the game’s colorful pixel art. The sprites and art style remind me of the same quality of WayForward’s Shantae series as well as a splash of Sega’s Gunstar Heroes. The aesthetic feels like a Genesis game but with brighter environments and colors that pop out. Almost immediately Kaze’s personality is expressed as she will stand impatiently should the player not press a button within five seconds. At least Sonic gives the player at least a half of a minute before he starts huffing and puffing, but I get it, there are friends to save and mutant veggies to destroy.
Yeah, the main enemies in Kaze and the Wild Masks are mutated vegetables that vary from different types, including peas in a pod that can hover in the air, giant carrots that stomp around, tomatoes that shoot carrots from a bazooka, and many others. Levels introduce new enemies as they go along, including indestructible enemies, meaning Kaze must find creative ways to avoid cheap deaths.
A Little Bit Of “Rayman,” A Little Bit Of “Bandicoot”...
Controls are simple as it’s a two-button game, requiring a jump and an attack button. An optional “third button” can be set for Kaze’s aerial dive, initiated by pressing down and the attack button at the same time otherwise. Kaze’s attack reminded me of Crash Bandicoot’s spin attack, only it propels her forward, meaning that players will need to be mindful of any death pits below her.
Aside from the aerial dive attack, Kaze has no way to defend herself in the air as using the attack button will cause her ears to motion like a helicopter propeller, hovering and slowing her descent which is almost a requirement for precision landing. Kaze can also “goomba stomp” opponents underneath her as she’s in the air, but certain enemies cannot be stomped. Likewise, there are some enemies that cannot be attacked from the ground.
...Actually, A “LOT” Of Bit Of Bandicoot
The “Wild Masks” come into play during specific parts of a level, complete with a cutscene with her wearing a mask that will give her powers accordingly. A bird mask for example will give Kaze the ability to fly around while also attacking in the air, throwing fireballs at enemies. Overall the gameplay is not as fast-paced as Sonic, but it instead reminds me of classic platformers including Rayman and Donkey Kong Country. She can throw barrels at enemies and break open power-ups much like the Kongs can in the latter.
There are various collectibles and objectives throughout each level including collecting the golden “K-A-Z-E” letters and a hundred purple crystals. There are two special stages that are usually accessible off the beaten path and completing them nets her a green diamond. There’s also a bonus award for players who survive without getting hit once.
Kaze and the Wild Masks Is As Challenging As The Player Wants
There are variations between each of the levels, with one level requiring Kaze to ascend a tower while avoiding projectiles and another requiring her to move fast while activating these light flowers. Throughout the level there are enemies that cannot be defeated, yet when these light flowers are activated, the enemies momentarily shrivel up until the lights go out. Speed, pacing, and proper platforming is required to ensure Kaze is not completely trapped in a bad situation, setting the player back their progress.
The early levels are easy enough to grasp, but this was the first level to tease players how difficult the game can be. If Kaze gets hit once, she succumbs and the player is set back to the last checkpoint they accessed unless she has access to a heart. The heart acts as a shield, absorbing one hit before it disappears.
Kaze Is As Free-Spirited As The Wind
Usually, levels have one checkpoint in the middle of each level, at most two, meaning players will be set back quite a bit if they mess up. However, the levels are short enough that it doesn’t become too punishing to the player and the challenge becomes fun after a while. In this regard, it reminds me of the Game Boy Advance Crash Bandicoot games. Kaze also has infinite lives, meaning the player can commit to trial-and-error without worrying about a game over.
Overall, Kaze and the Wild Masks seems like a great game for fans of the 2D platformer genre. It’s not as unrefined as Tanuki Justice, instead reminding me of other recent platformers including the Wonder Boy 4 remake.
Kaze and the Wild Masks is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Google Stadia, and Xbox One