Late to the Party: Blade Kitten

Concept: Pink-haired catgirl Kit Ballard fights robots and armored stormtroopers with her big remote-controlled sword in this spunky but glitchy hop-and-bop sidescroller.

Gameplay: An unusual specimen outside of Nintendo titles, Blade Kitten is a platformer in the Super Mario tradition. You run, jump, and climb around mostly-linear levels, fighting enemies and picking up scattered money and collectibles. There’s not much precision involved; though there are special moves you can execute, you can get by with button-mashing, and few jumping or timing puzzles take any notable finesse.

A lot of polish is missing here. Kit frequently makes or misses jumps without clear indication of why, and mounts up her Chocobo-like “Noot” when you try to move past it. Enemies block and counterattack seemingly at random, giving no cue as to the correct timing or technique to get an attack through. Some game elements are not explained in tutorials; you must read the “How to Play” guide to discover them. Thankfully, very lenient health, checkpoint, and continue mechanics ensure that no setback lasts long.

Aesthetics: Blade Kitten is an odd duck. The visuals are colorful and cartoonish, and the protagonist has a fun sense of style expressed in her costume, special moves, and idle animations. But the game is marred by numerous animation glitches and strange art decisions that break the mood and flow. NPCs mill about aimlessly and collide with one another. Enemies freeze in place while you dispatch your pet “Skiffy” to pick up coins. Kit flickers between poses if she hits a corner of the terrain. Foreground elements cut away with an ugly yellow-outlined black void when you pass behind them. It has a definite rush-job feel to it.

The story, insofar as there is one, makes no sense. Supposed bounty-hunter Kit spends no time at all pursuing her quarry, preferring instead to run errands for every random NPC she meets along the way. (And not in classic side-quest fashion either; these are all mandatory missions.) Sometimes she teams up with a group, but you keep fighting them throughout the level anyway. It makes a complete joke out of the “strong narrative” mentioned in some of the game’s promotional material! The voice acting for this slipshod script is top-notch, though, and the soundtrack–while less than memorable–gets the job done.

Ism Factor: Better than most. I always give props to games with female protagonists; the more, the better! And while Kit is plainly meant to be a “sexy” character, her outfits are varied and not too exploitative. The male gaze is largely absent. Not bad! Moreover, the character is based on one from a comic book, and her portrayal here manages to avoid some of the sexist tropes from her comic incarnation. For example, in the first few pages of the comic, Kit uses sex appeal and innuendo as a combat tactic, but that sort of thing never turns up in the game.

A few oddments make Blade Kitten less than exemplary, though. Beyond her basic action-heroine status (complete with dead family), it’s hard to come up with any character trait that isn’t gender-stereotyped. Kit titters over cute animals and fashionable clothing, remarks on the dating potential of male NPCs, and so on. Overall it feels like the creators dodged the usual for-heterosexual-males pitfalls, but instead created a “Pink Lego” character with stereotypes of the teen-girl demographic. There’s also a running joke about characters of a different species being unable to determine Kit’s gender or age (which are the most important things about a female character, amirite?)… but the joke falls flat when it becomes apparent that their species has the exact same gender and age markers as humans anyway.

Overall: 2.5/5. It’s playable! I finished it, in part because it’s quite short, the game coming to an abrupt halt as soon as any plot coherence emerges. Worth buying on discount: I’d say $2 would be about right for the experience.

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