The greatest joy in Kunai comes from mastering momentum. With two kunai in hand, you’ll swing from platforms and climb countless walls while moving with an energy that is as challenging as it is thrilling. It’s that speed that carries Kunai forward, even when its design slows it down far too often for my liking.
In this indie Metroidvania, you play as Tabby, a surprisingly agile tablet in a world devoid of humans and populated by ancient, bulky machines. Your natural talents are put to the test against an oppressive robotic empire, whom you fight against with nothing but the help of a fledgling resistance and a katana to start.
That katana is swiftly joined by the eponymous kunai and a small selection of tools and weapons that are simple in appearance yet incredibly versatile in practice. Dual machine guns provide both a means to attack at range and can be used to extend a jump by firing downwards. The rocket launcher can both blow up boulders and rocket jump over obstacles with the correct timing.
Still, it is the kunai that shines the brightest. Using the triggers on a Nintendo Switch, you are able to swing from obstacle to obstacle, hover in mid-air, and deftly launch yourself in any direction. This is made possible by Kunai’s intuitive controls, which ensures that the movement is always fun no matter how far you’ve progressed.
You’ll use these tools to navigate Kunai’s large map, though the individual areas you explore are greater than the whole. Exploring them for the first time is a delight to the variety present in their design and the freshness of the challenges you encounter. Too often, however, you are forced to backtrack through these straightforward levels for little reward and purpose, as each beat in the story is swift and lacking in impact. And with no fast travel system, it becomes noticeably tiresome very quickly
That’s not to say the world itself is lacking. Kunai uses a limited colour palette to great effect, with only four to five different colours seeing using at any time. Coupled with some wonderful animation and strong character design, and the simplicity of the art style works to the game’s benefit.
Most importantly, the act of swinging about and taking down obstacle after obstacle with the tools at your disposal remains fulfilling throughout. It may not stack up against many of its contemporaries, but Kunai has plenty of charm and a strong handle on the fundamentals of movement, making it an enjoyable experience regardless.