One of the many benefits of the indie scene is that it often deals with genres that we rarely see from major developers and publishers anymore. Kraino Origins is a 2D platformer, which draws its inspiration from and could have easily been released many years ago, during the famous “bit wars” era. Created by GameAtomic and basically by one person, it gave us very nice retro feelings.
The game world is drawn from old horror movies and literature, as it is dominated by zombies, skeletons, ghosts, and monsters of all kinds. The genius Dr. Bacula created an army of them and dominated everywhere. But his latest creation, a dead knight named “Kraino”, who comes back to life, manages to retain his memory and personality. Being a force for Good, it turns against its creator and its subjects…
Starting to play we will be taken to a map similar to that of Super Mario Bros 3, where we will go to the level we want to try. Overall, Kraino Origins is a short but comprehensive experience, comprising 8 regular levels and 6 more optional levels, with a runtime of around 3.5 hours. As we said, this is a 2D platformer from days gone by, reminiscent of a mix of Mega Man, Castlevania and a bit shovel knight.
Our main weapon is our trusty scythe for melee attacks and a number of secondary weapons, but which we must purchase from a merchant hidden somewhere in each level. Other collectibles that we will find by breaking walls will increase our life and energy. Secondary weapons are very reminiscent of their counterparts from Castlevania titles and are invaluable, especially in our boss encounters.
Generally, the levels are quite large, with differences in visuals between them. Thus, we will find ourselves in the sewers, in the cemeteries, and even inside a volcano. The level design is considered very satisfactory, the challenge being daunting, but without reaching sadistic levels. Seasoned players won’t really have a problem, but that doesn’t mean they won’t die multiple times.
We have infinite lives, checkpoints are frequent and well distributed, and hidden rooms will not make it particularly difficult for us to find them, except for 1-2 cases. Moreover, in each level there is a new mechanism, thus renewing the gameplay and keeping the interest of the player. Fortunately, the grip is precise, tight, instinctive and perfectly suited to the genre and the action. Our character naturally has few moves, the hitboxes work perfectly and so the game runs smoothly from start to final confrontation.
As we said, there are also 6 optional challenge levels. Here there are no checkpoints and their duration is quite short, but the challenge is a little bigger. But our engagement with them will reward us with special coins, which are used to upgrade our secondary weapons. Let’s say here that, as in Shovel Knight, with each death we lose a large part of our simple money and that we have to recover it again by reaching the point where we lost.
The enemies are well-designed, with great sprites, and their patterns are smart and fairly accurate. But we would like a greater variety of them, because they are repeated quite often from one level to another. The bosses, on the other hand, are exciting, with great design too, and a very satisfying challenge.
When it comes to the technical realm, things don’t disappoint here either. The graphics are something between the 8 and 16 bit mentality, with great sprites as we said, detailed environments and bright colors. There’s the monster movie – horror element, but with a little bit of humor. In other words, it’s reminiscent of old Castlevania at its most comical.
Kraino Origins’ music sounds great to the ears, without a really memorable theme, but also without being boring. On the contrary, it fits very well with the theme of the game and of course it also recalls the synth compositions of the old games of the genre.
Of the many quality and epic AAA titles in length and perspective, we love that titles like Kraino Origins are still being released. It’s refreshing to catch a game like this with satisfying and meaningful gameplay, reminiscent of beloved and classic titles of the past, and you can complete it in a reasonable amount of time.
Kraino Origins left us with such a great taste that we really wouldn’t mind if it included a few extra levels. Maybe in a sequel… Until then, fans of the genre and retro platformers will find a worthy sample of the category here and will enjoy every moment of it.
THE Origins of Kraino was released on Nintendo Switch from 3/28/23, while for PC it is available from 9/3/22. Our review was based on the Nintendo Switch version, with a review code we received from GameAtomic.