Pink-haired bounty-hunting cat-girl Kit Ballard is the star of Blade Kitten, a PlayStation Network platformer that's less furry than its 2D/3D platformer predecessors Crash Bandicoot and Klonoa, but very promising given the mental comparisons I made while playing the game.
Krome Studios brought a playable Blade Kitten to GDC, helping us to better understand what the side-scrolling platformer, full of exploration and hand-to-hand combat, is all about. Most important, it's not a "Metroidvania" competitor, despite its appearance and Ballard's abilities to perform classic double jumps, scale walls and cling to ceilings—opportunities to reach hidden areas and out-of-view platforms, where coveted hidden treasures are stored.
Blade Kitten is just as heavy on melee combat as it is platforming. Kit is armed with a floating sword named the Darque Blade, which she can use in close combat to slash nearby enemies or send forward a few lengths in front of her, attacking enemies at a safer distance. That far-reaching slash can also be used to activate switches behind barriers and, acting like an extended arm, yank shields from enemies' hands, leaving them vulnerable to close quarters attacks.
Kit can also use the Darque Blade to defend herself by holding down the short range attack button or use it as an anchor with L2, stabbing the ground to prevent being blown away by gusts of wind.
That the player can perform these numerous variations on the standard attack—along with others, like a powerful, cinematically presented slash attack and a crushing diving move—with just a handful of buttons, techniques layered upon each other is what makes Blade Kitten immediately interesting.
The 2D plane platforming, combined with combat, climbing, sprinting, sliding and life meter-contextual, is surprisingly deep—deep on a Naughty Dog-era Crash Bandicoot game or the previously mentioned Klonoa. Blade Kitten starts with a strong foundation and builds well upon it.
Our hands-on demo forced us to quickly use most of Kit's arsenal of techniques, which the player has early access to, unlike the steady build-up of abilities as seen in a Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night-style game.
Blade Kitten's visuals, cel-shaded, bright and cheery, but set amidst a more serious military scuffle, go beyond what we'd normally expect from a downloadable title. Krome Studios has given the game a liberal dose of anime styling, seen in the huge doe-eyes of its female characters and Kit's giant swords.
The levels that I played, a hack and slash and jump romp through a futuristic city, were big and beautifully laid out. The control took a little warming up to, partly due to a bit of floatiness to the controls and the larger size of the on-screen characters. After getting a few quick in-game tutorials, I was free to slice up bad guys and jump my way to higher platforms.
In a level that I watched Krome creative director and Blade Kitten creator Steve Stamatiadis play, he took on a massive boss monster, a multi-storied beast that looked part Cthulhu, part '60s sci-fi terror. The tentacle mouthed boss monster tore apart levels, smashing platforms and enemy soldiers while Stamatiadis ran to safety. He also played a lot better than I did, performing cool looking counters and snatching shields away from soldiers.
Blade Kitten looks promising, a platformer that rewards experimenting with a cool set of base gameplay mechanics. It's due to hit the PlayStation Network sometime this spring, with Krome's Steve Stamatiadis not ruling out other platforms. While we wait, here are a handful of new screens of Blade Kitten in action.