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The Exodus Project Group

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Kaze And The Wild Masks

Kaze and the Wild Masks touts itself as a call back to the great era of '90s platforming games, and it won't take long for players to realize exactly why this is. In nearly every way, this game imitates classics like Donkey Kong Country, Sonic the Hedgehog, and even Mario to an extent, and it does so flawlessly. Despite this emulation, it never feels like a cheap copy or unoriginal, providing its own layers of charm though the uniqueness of Kaze's masks. Kaze and the Wild Masks may not do much in the way of innovation, but it does everything else incredibly well.

Kaze and the Wild Masks

If there was anything that set Kaze and the Wild Masks apart from its inspirations, it would have to be the titular wild masks, and even these draw inspiration from other titles. Throughout the various levels players will traverse, there are wild masks placed around that alter what Kaze is capable of doing. In total there are four different masks, an eagle, tiger, shark, and lizard mask. When players first find the eagle mask, they'll gain the power of flight, as well as a projectile weapon to help clear the path. The level then seamlessly shifts to accommodate this new power, and the game seems to change altogether.

The masks shake up the gameplay loop a bit, providing a nice change of pace from what fans had come to expect. They also are a testament to Kaze and the Wild Masks' brilliant level design, which seems to serve the same goal of being enjoyable yet simple to understand. Each level tends to have only one or two gimmicks, whether that be ziplines, moving platforms, bouncing jelly, or something else. What's more, if a level has a mask in it, it's very clear that the entire level is designed around that fact. Players will always feel they have the tools they need to succeed.

Overall, there isn't much to gripe at when it comes to Kaze and the Wild Masks. If forced to say something negative about the game, it is a shame that the wild masks don't come into play more often. They are only usable at specific times in specific levels, so players aren't really permitted to experiment with them much. Likewise, the boss fights can sometimes feel a bit unbalanced, either being too easy or too hard. Even so, these things are minor grievances that don't affect the overall experience of playing the game. Kaze and the Wild Masks is exceptionally average in every way, and never fails to impress. It excels at its goal to create a clean, enjoyable, and nostalgic '90s platforming experience, while simultaneously providing just enough of a fresh take to keep things exciting.

More often than not in collection-heavy games, the reward is in the completionist mentality. That never sits well in my opinion, and thankfully PixelHive has cleverly tied unlockables to each of the different gem types. The Yellow gem (which you receive after collecting K-A-Z-E) unlocks a different piece of art that details the origin of the masks as well as the game's main antagonist. Green gems unlock a (painfully difficult) bonus stage in each world. And the Red supposedly unlocks more content beyond the last boss should you collect every red gem in the game. To put that into perspective, I finished the game with only 7/31 red gems. No easy feat.

As you attempt to survive the onslaught of evil, transformed vegetables that make up your primary opposition, you'll eventually come across one of the title's aforementioned masks. Mimicking the feeling of finding animal buddies in the Donkey Kong titles, these consist of Eagle, Shark, Reptile, and Tiger, each of them bestowing additional animalistic powers to Kaze. Most function as you would assume. The Eagle Mask gives you the ability to fly through the air by flapping your wings with the jump button as well as arming you with an arcing projectile. The Shark mask gives you additional abilities in the game's water sections, allowing you to torpedo yourself through the water as well as giving you the ability to swim. The more unique masks are the Tiger and Reptile; The Tiger mask gives you a dash attack and the ability to climb walls. The Reptile mask is bestowed for on rails portions of the game. Similar to the mine cart levels of DKC, you continuously move forward but gain the ability to perform a double jump as well as a dive technique. These four masks do a great job to provide means of level traversal that instantly feels familiar and offers a nice mix up to the level pacing, with the Tiger mask being my personal favorite thanks to the additional platforming challenge it gave to many levels. I do wish that Kaze and the Wild Masks went the extra mile to differentiate itself in its level design, however. Each stage often acts as a wonderful clone to past games, but it does suffer from playing too close to those inspirations. At times it felt lacking in too many unique ideas of its own.

Kaze and the Wild Masks begins with the protagonist Kaze seeing her friend Hugo transformed by a curse. At the same time, vegetables gain strange evil powers and begin to take over the Crystal islands. As Kaze, you must race through the four islands and utilize the power of the magical masks to free your friend and land from the curse fallen on them. Like most of the games that inspired it, the story is relatively unimportant to the overall experience and is merely dressing to get the player platforming.

All the masks add necessary and appreciated variety to the whole package and mean that each level is different from the last in a good rhythm. The mask sections are usually also where the game gets really difficult. The endless runner lizard sections in particular require absolutely perfect timing throughout and will definitely take dozens of tries for even the best players.

Returning to solid ground, Kaze discovers that the fruit and vegetables of the land have been transformed into monsters terrorizing the people by Typhoon, the female staff-weilder from before. To atone for her mistake, Kaze sets out on a journey back to Carrotland to undo the curse, defeat Typhoon, and return Hogo back to normal. She does so with the assistance of the eponymous Wild Masks, four masks containing the spirit of heroes from the past that grant the wearer their power. 041b061a72


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