Title: Captain Kaon
Available On: PC
Where To Buy: Steam, Xbox One
Captain Kaon to the rescue! Or not, depending on your moral compass. Captain Kaon is a pretty spiffing indie old school gravity twin stick shooter (don’t know what a gravity shooter is, then you were clearly born after the 80’s).
In Captain Kaon, the player takes on the role of Captain Talia “Kaon”, an extraordinary space pilot who has just more than a few anger issues and nothing to live for except for revenge against the Drulz; a species that destroyed her home. Captain Kaon is incarcerated and facing a court-martial when war breaks out. Hoping this new conflict would give her the chance for salvation, she instead found herself left behind. With the Argus operating on a skeleton crew, she has been assigned as its sole gunship pilot.
In the midst of this uncertainty the miners of Ceres revolt against Earth rule, refusing to supply the fleet with the deuterium fuel it sorely needs. Without it, the fleet in Regulus will be unable to fight and the Earth will become vulnerable. Only Captain Kaon can fly her gunship through the twisting tunnels beneath Ceres surface and fight the revolt.
The visual presentation of Captain Kaon is almost that of a love letter to classics such as Thrust and Gravitar. The game looks, sounds and feels like a game from a bygone era, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! James Buckle, the lead developer; spoke of his fondness for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and the Amiga. It’s clear to see when you launch the game, where the inspiration comes from, and it’s a breath of fresh air to play a new, retro game.
My complaints about the visual style only come in from a user interface perspective; green text over a green lines makes it somewhat difficult for me to read all of the text, and navigating the menus can seem a little counterintuitive and clumsy as they seem a little unclear, but this, of course, is me being somewhat hypercritical, or as my peers would refer to as “whinging“.
Captain Kaon is quite easy to learn the basics of, but the difficulty ramps up when you are attempting to navigate tight maze-like flight paths and fire at enemies coming from multiple directions. It reminds me of situations I’ve faced in bullet hell games or in a more well-known case, like that time I played Silver Surfer on NES; where my undivided attention is required to make any notable progress.
The tutorial does a nice job of easing you in to the mechanics, but even after a couple of hours of successfully completing objectives, sooner or later the frustration can set in. I wouldn’t recommend playing for extended spells for fear of breaking a keyboard or monitor in anger, but in that sense, the game offers quite the challenge. You can use either a keyboard and mouse or a controller to play. Trying to keep your ship from crashing into obstacles whilst shooting enemy ships and dodging bullets and missiles is a pretty difficult task, but when you get that balance just right; you revel in the satisfaction of all the enemy ships going boom, exploding into mini pixels and dropping to the ground like lead balloons.
As you play the game, your moral compass may make you question whether our heroine, Captain Kaon should have been left in lock up, as she rains bullets and bombs at helpless ground fixtures, and exploits resources from various people along the way in order to upgrade the ship and maintain repair costs. As you progress, you unlock different areas that can be exploited for resources, and previously exploited areas can be revisited.
When I spoke to James Buckle at EGX Rezzed 2017 about this, he spoke about whether or not Captain Kaon is the bad guy in all this, and talked about whether the end justifies the means. It’s an interesting conundrum you find yourself in, as you don’t technically need to exploit every resource in order to progress through the game, only taking what you “need”. The question is, whether players will in fact only take what they need, rather than taking everything that is available! I know in my experience, I took everything I wanted rather than everything I needed, but then; I’m a horrible person.
The most important aspects to take away from Captain Kaon is whether it’s fun and if achieves what it set out to do. It looks, sounds and feels like a game straight from the 80’s or early 90’s, which is exactly what the developer had in mind. As for fun? Yes, the game is fun; frustrating as hell at times, but not so much that you don’t want to continue. It has that “Just one more time” factor that comes from such a labor of love, which in this case is clear for all to see.
So, would I recommend Captain Kaon? Yes, I would. If you want to see the revival of a long gone genre of games, this one definitely has you covered. It’s a great addition to Steam that I hope is met by like-minded individuals who appreciate the good old days. I’d recommend you tackle the game in short bursts rather than marathons in order to get the best experience.
- Gameplay: Great physics and fun, addictive gameplay
- Graphics: Fabulous pixel art to replicate an age gone by
- Sound: Great ambient sound design and FX
- Presentation: A few issues with the user interface, especially the mission select and ship management screens, but otherwise very good!
- Amiga styled artwork
- Gravity Physics work great
- Great ambient soundtrack and use of sound
- A real nostalgic trip to the good old days
- Frustrating in parts
- Environmental damage is too high
- Poor UI on map screen