Kraino Origins review: a homage of a homage

What do you call a game that was inspired by a game, which itself was a homage to yet another game?

No, seriously. Enquiring minds need to know!

Kraino Origins by GameAtomic (and published on Switch by Elden Pixels) unabashedly feels like Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight – which in turn was inspired by NES classics such as Zelda II, Castlevania III and DuckTales. This isn’t a knock on Kraino: it’s just an observation that’s too blatant to ignore. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Shovel Knight’s armor just turned beet red.

Kraino Origins has you playing as a dapper top-hatted skeleton who’s out for revenge against his maker, Dr. Batcula. Doing so requires him to hop, bop and slash his way through eight stages (and a handful of speed run levels) in a neon-gothic world filled with the kind of baddies that might feel at home in Castlevania or Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins. Although this small number of stages makes for a somewhat succinct title, each level has plenty going on, and it’s always preferable to have a shorter, fuller experience than one which has been unnecessarily padded out to increase the runtime. Kraino Origins is perhaps not as polished as Shovel Knight, but the level formats are similiar in that they feature plenty of secrets hidden behind walls and subsequent action puzzles, as well as doo-dads to buy from a magnanimous shopkeeper. Plus there’s a checkpoint system that has you going back to the place of your demise to collect the money you dropped upon death.

Beyond the thematic and structural similarities, Kraino himself handles in a similar way to the titular Shovel Knight. Rather than carrying a shovel (which would be egregious, really) he totes a different yard tool – a scythe. Swinging it feels a bit loose – whacking enemies causes a small but noticeable kickback that adds to the feeling of floatiness – but you get the hang of the controls pretty quickly nonetheless. Padding out Kraino’s move set is a useful and satisfying ‘pogo’ attack and a smattering of side weapons like axes and fireballs, which feel familiar but are also pretty handy.

Even though Kraino Origins doesn’t feel wholly original, this hardly matters in the grand scheme of things, because it’s also wholly enjoyable. Furthermore, it’s an experience that values your time by being pleasingly concise: had it gone on any longer than the couple of nights it took me to beat it, the game might have felt stretched thin and worn out its welcome.

Kraino Origins accomplishes what it sets out to be – an entertainingly good platformer made by somebody who knows what they like and, by extension, what fans of the 8-bit platformer genre like, too.

Kraino Origins was developed by GameAtomic, and it’s available on Nintendo Switch, iOS and PC. We played the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: review code for Kraino Origins was provided by Plan of Attack. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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