Spooky times abound in Kraino Origins. If you’re looking for a game that feels like it should have been released on Halloween, yet is still great regardless, then Kraino Origins is it. Developed by GameAtomic, Kraino Origins is a 2D action-platformer heavily inspired by the original Castlevania games before they became gigantic Metroidvanias and were simpler, level-based games.
What little story Kraino Origins gives you for your excuse to go ghoul-busting across the land is presented with simple yet atmospheric animated cutscenes. It seems a mad scientist has decided to bring you back to life in skeletal form. But wait! Before you go on your revenge spree, there’s a plot twist – right at the beginning.
You see, you haven’t been resurrected in the name of some unholy attempt to further science or to take over the world with an unholy horde. No. You have been resurrected for the noblest goal of all… Justice! That’s right, the madcap scientist has brought you back to save the land. Or has he??
How do you do that? By putting on your best top hat, grabbing a scythe, and reaping evil wherever it dares appear. And that’s everywhere apparently. Kraino Origins‘ world is hardly one for a great summer vacation.
The premise and gameplay are stripped-down simplicity, making for a game that feels like it would have fit right in with platformers of yore. However, that simplicity in mechanical design does not equate to a simple level of challenge.
As our titular top hat-wearing protagonist, you can jump, swing your scythe quickly enough to string together combos, attack beneath you, and spin it around in a circle for a more devastating AoE attack – albeit potentially dangerous to you as it locks you briefly in place. Your arsenal can be expanded upon by purchasing extra weapons, such as a ranged fireball, from the game’s sole merchant – assuming you can find him in a level that is.
Kraino Origins‘ levels are very straightforward. You go from A to B, defeating enemies and navigating platforming segments, before facing off against a fairly challenging boss. There’s plenty of verticality despite the screen-by-screen design and the level design never becomes staid. Each level typically throws in a new mechanic to master or hazard to overcome, starting off simply before increasing the complexity and placing enemies in more nefarious positions.
Whether it’s using bubbles to bounce across toxic gasps, or rotating platforms to work your way toward the top of a stage, Kraino Origins slowly increases the difficulty until, by the end of the stage, you’re working your way across multi-screen platforming sequences while dealing with enemies who are always placed in difficult but not unfair positions. With some patience, timing, and skill, you can overcome any challenge.
Between these longer stages, you can tackle “challenge levels” based on the one you’ve just completed. These levels take the mechanics you’ve just mastered and hazards youy’ve overcome, and turn them into one long platforming and combat gauntlet that leads you to a weapon upgrade token. These are, by far, Kraino Origins‘ most challenging and thrilling sequences.
Levels themselves are also full of secrets hidden behind breakable walls, with tokens that upgrade your health and magic meter but, by far, the most important thing to find is that hidden merchant. He stocks one new weapon per level and these sub-weapons, especially the default fireball, are lifesavers. The weapon upgrade tokens you earn from the challenge levels can then be used to upgrade these sub-weapons and they’re well worth the price and challenge of seeking them out.
Kraino Origins‘ basic combat is thrilling but hardly splashy. Enemies can be killed in a just few hits but it’s their placement in a level that makes them challenging. The bosses fit into the game’s monster themes and are somewhat spongy. Beating them is all about learning to react to attacks rather than attack patterns as they commonly mix up what moves they bust out. Recognising the start of animations is exceedingly important to surviving bosses.
As with old-school platformers, Kraino Origins has checkpoints within a level – usually before a challenging sequence – but if you quit out of a level, be preapered to replay it right from the start.
Visually, Kraino Origins is a beautiful sprite-driven game. Enemy and character designs are wonderfully animated and have their own take on traditional designs that abound in the genre. Flaming skulls, bats, werewolves – it is all par for the course but the animations and subtlety in the designs that make them stand out.
Strangely, Kraino Origins doesn’t have traditional sound effects in place (or this was a bug that persisted through my entire playthrough). There’s just a backing musical track, which can be catchy depending on the stage, overlaying everything. There are no meaty enemy death sighs or weapon swings or strikes to listen, which is a rather bold or erroneous choice.
And that’s all there is to say about Kraino Origins. It’s a simple, classically-inspired take on action-platformers of old that displays exactly how much the developers understand both what makes those games classics, along with how to design them with maximum enjoyment and challenge in mind. Kraino Origins is challenging, make no mistake, but it’s never unfair or cheaply designed. With some wonderful sprite work, colourful Gothic visuals, and fun, challenging gameplay, it’s a perfect action platformer for those missing the purity of the original Castlevania games or those just looking for another solid entry in the genre.
Kraino Origins (Switch) ReviewKraino Origins (Switch) Review
- Fun, challenging gameplay
- Great visuals
- Music as the only audio is a bold move (or a bug!)
- Spongey bosses take forever to defeat