Imagine, if you will, a game where you do nothing but move around, jump, and place your own checkpoints at will. There are no enemies, no powerups, and there aren’t countless coins or rings or gems to collect. Instead, it’s just you, your platforming skills, some great tunes, and a bunch of stuff that will instantly kill you if you touch it. Can you see it?
Okay, now imagine that the game is actually pretty darn fun! If you put all of that together, you’ve got kuso (title not capitalized on purpose), a charming little challenging platforming game that allows you to (sort of) set your own difficulty.
Developer: Fred Wood (@thatsmytrunks)
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by @Xinthus
Interface: Handheld Nintendo Switch console
Available on Nintendo Switch (reviewed) and Steam (Windows and Mac).
kuso is a challenging yet fair platformer with a simple aesthetic. You have the ability to run, jump, and leave your own checkpoint. Make your way through acid, long jumps, disappearing platforms, bouncers, giant saws, and much more in this dreadful mechanical world. If you’re looking for a game that’ll challenge your platforming skills, something excellent to listen to, and a game to master, kuso is the game for you.
One thing I’ve come to accept as a gamer is that I’m not a fan of overly difficult games. If we lived in some dystopia where enjoying anything referred to as a souls-like or souls-lite game was a requirement for living, I’d have to resign myself to whatever form of death penalty there was. I always assumed this extended to platforming games as well, but after reviewing games like Escape Doodland and Light Fall, I’m not so sure anymore. Kuso was made available as an #IndieSelect game, which means that it was being given away temporarily on Twitter in exchange for honest tweets or a person streaming the game. I actually passed on the game due to how challenging the game appeared, and a recently a friend purchased me a copy. Whether this was meant as a blessing or a curse, I’ll never know, but I ended up having such a good time with it that I decided to write up this review.
Kuso is a very simple but incredibly well-polished game. Your goal is always the same: get from the beginning of a stage to the end as quickly as possible with as few deaths and checkpoints as possible. Sometimes you’ll be running through very technological areas, other times you’ll be running through what appears to be a vicious beast, but the gameplay is the same and the obstacles are equally fatal. In fact, not only are the obstacles equally fatal, it’s equally obvious that they’re fatal: anything white is “interactive”, and aside from the fields that slow you down and objects you bounce off of, all of that “interaction” results in you being dead.
The ability to instantly see what will kill you and what won’t is terrific, especially in a game where there’s so much going on. Kuso doesn’t attempt to create grand settings; in fact, every level is basically black and white plus a single color: one level is blue, another is red, there’s a purple level, and so on. But despite this simplicity in pixels, in color, and in mechanics, kuso‘s levels are terrific. Each one felt very different, and the obstacles are used in really unique ways. Sometimes it’s a deadly rain, other times you’re falling between spikes or bouncing up between flames or dodging cannons firing at you. The levels are also broken into numerous bite-size challenges, and since you can throw down checkpoints pretty much anywhere (they get destroyed by the same things that would kill you though so be careful!), even people like me who are awful at difficult games will eventually get through each level.
Kuso is made up of 41 levels – 25 original kuso levels and 16 remade from LOVE – although there are some bonus levels you can play individually as well. It also has four main modes to play those levels – unlimited, arcade, hard, and speedrun – plus the level select mode where you can play any level on its own for practice. Unlimited allows players unlimited lives to beat kuso, LOVE, or both, and speedrun is the same, although it adds collectibles on various levels and displays your time for the run in the corner. The arcade and hard modes, on the other hand, limit your number of lives. There’s also a two player mode that splits the screen and pits players against each other in a race to the end, selecting individual or sets of levels to see who’s the fastest. While a playthrough of kuso or LOVE takes a half hour or less each, there’s still lots of replayability in beating your previous grades. When you complete unlimited mode, you’re shown the number of times you died (while watching that many dudes falling to their death) and given three grades: one for your number of deaths, one for the time you took to beat it, and another for the number of checkpoints you used. The first time I beat kuso, I received two Fs and a D, but I noticed in my speedrun that I actually cut my overall time and deaths down by a third! Sadly, without online leaderboards, folks will have to use post-run screenshots to compare with one another.
I really enjoyed kuso, and it’s nice that levels can be played a few at a time. With that said, every time I went to play a few levels I ended up completing a whole playthrough, and the game is incredibly addictive. It’s practically a rhythm game with the way the music is interwoven with the movement of the obstacles, and I really miss the tunes when I play with the audio muted during TV shows! Finally, the ability to throw down a checkpoint anywhere you want is a really inviting touch. All it takes is a press of the A button on any solid ground, and this allows players to decide whether they want to play it super safe (but get a bad grade for checkpoint usage) or risk respawning several sets of obstacles back if they die. The controls are absolutely perfect, very tight, and both movement and jumping feel spectacular. There may not be a great deal of content here, but at $5 it’s an easy recommendation due to the replayability, races against another local player, and surprising addictiveness of the levels!