Arena combat games have been around for quite a while. From classics like Super Smash Bros. to recent releases like Nidhogg and Towerfall, players can depend on these titles for competitive and enjoyable couch co-op gameplay. The genre has recently been on the rise thanks to smaller indie titles that prove online competitive gameplay hasn’t totally replaced co-op. Chambara, from developer Overly Kinetic, is the latest example, pairing everything that makes playing with your friends in the same room so fun with satisfyingly gruesome combat.
The easiest way to describe Chambara is that it’s a first-person hack-and-slasher. The game lets you choose from a variety of different weapons, like a broomstick or a katana, and unleashes you into a gorgeous 3D space in which to kill your opponents. It’s a simple premise, and one that anyone can grasp at first glance. It’s akin to Towerfall in this respect, as both titles take a streamlined approach to gameplay that leads to instant enjoyment. Players can jump, trigger a melee attack, dash, and throw a projectile weapon (a single throwing star).
That’s it. You don’t ever learn anything new the more you play, and that’s a great thing. Chambara is confident in its simplicity whereas most other games would fail having only four commands. The game sports well -designed, visually interesting and clever levels. Arenas—which range from libraries to ancient ruins—encourage tactics, quick reflexes, and the constant need to wall jump. This makes for a fast, violent experience that’s an absolute joy to play with friends.
Along with choosing your weapon, you can also pick some generic cosmetic items like a hat and body type to differentiate your character model. I found this to be quite useless as the customization options leaves much to be desired, to say the least. Chambara's biggest draw is its aesthetic. It looks like a creative and vivid colouring book. The backgrounds, character models, and menus are plain white but there’s a constant barrage of different colours splashing all over the screen, from red and blue to pink and yellow. There’s one arena that sports neon signs and a bright pink background, with a few items and floors covered in white. It’s a startlingly beautiful art style that instantly grabbed me.
Chambara’s biggest flaw is its lack of modes. It doesn’t offer much in terms of variety, as the versus matchups are all you’ll be able to play. There’s a versus gametype that strips down cosmetics and a few combat options and a quickmatch mode that instantly starts a match, but that’s all. There’s no way to play the game by yourself, which means you’ll need plenty of people to play with. Otherwise, there’s not much use to Chambara.
Chambara is a sleek, fast-paced, beautiful and enjoyable bloody co-op romp that requires a group of friends to sit down and play. There’s no room here for solo play, unfortunately, but doesn’t take away from the game’s biggest strengths.