Thanks to Fred Wood for the review code
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 11/20/2018
Kuso is a sequel/pseudo remake to a game known as LOVE, a platforming game that was released in 2014 and seemed to have been based on an older version from 2008. There’s no story in this game to speak of, but the long history behind some of these levels is very intriguing especially since it remakes a bunch of levels from both the 2014 and 2008 version of LOVE while also adding in over 20 new ones, and even a mode that combines all the levels into one big adventure!
Kuso goes for the tried and true 2D pixel art style I’ve seen time and time again on this website. Luckily, it goes for a style that’s a lot simpler than the usual 8-bit stuff, with some smooth animations that reminds me of VVVVVV. In fact, you can choose to switch between the newer animations from Kuso, and older ones from LOVE, which is a cool feature that I took advantage of right away, solely because LOVE’s animations are goofier.
The music is also surprisingly good. It doesn’t go for a chiptune style at all, rather consisting of a bunch of rhythmic music that seems to tie into the levels somewhat? It’s hard to tell if it was intentional or not, but I honestly felt that the music was so well made that the levels seemed to react to the beats, in a way that if you paid close enough attention, you could clear tricky obstacles by just following the beat of the music. Not quite iPod worth but definitely one of the more memorable scores from a retro platformer in recent months.
Kuso is billed as a challenging, pixel perfect platformer with enough customization to be accessible to everyone, in a way that encourages players to replay it over and over to improve their skills. In both the Kuso and LOVE levels, you take control of a stick figure who must run and jump through a variety of hazards to make it to the next screen alive and well.
You can place checkpoints anywhere you wish with the Y button, and upon death (or if you kill yourself with the X button) you will respawn at that set checkpoint infinitely. The only problem is that if you place it in a location where it can come in contact with a hazard, the checkpoint will be erased, forcing you to start from the beginning of the stage if you die without one in place. The levels are fairly short overall, with the longest ones only taking a few minutes at most, so there isn’t too much to get frustrated about if you mess up with a checkpoint placement, even if it still can be annoying.
With only moving and checkpoint placing at your disposal, that’s pretty much all you have in Kuso. Any level, whether it’s part of the LOVE levels or Kuso ones, focus on precise platforming and offers a few clever ways to speed through each of them with ease, meaning that even if you die without a checkpoint at the end of a very tough stage, redoing it shouldn’t take nearly as long as the many attempts beforehand due to how the game teaches you how to deal with a lot of the obstacles in the game, from the vanishing platforms with tiny white squares on them, (when the squares all vanish, so does the platform) to chutes of spikes, laser beams and bouncing platforms. It’s a simplistic game, yet one with a really good flow that leads to a perfectly enjoyable experience with either set of levels.
Even better, Kuso doesn’t just consist of a few basic options. There are several difficulty options available as well, from an unlimited lives option, (the default, where the game will rank you based on checkpoint placement, deaths, and time) to some difficulties where you only have 100 or even eight lives to clear a set of stages. Considering how this game is easy to learn yet hard to master, the multiple options really do help, and in the two player race mode, Unlimited is the default setting.
Speaking of which, the two player race mode is surprisingly solid. You can choose from a few select groups of stages, and both you and the other player must race against each other to see who can make it to the end of the screen first. You can still place checkpoints anywhere you wish, and levels progress the same as they would in the normal game, meaning that you could use this as a great way to practice for that, or to help teach some friends the mechanics of the game! However you prefer to play, once all the stages in the batch are completed, it’ll compare your statistics so you can see which player died the most and whatnot. It’s very basic and is local only, but it’s a fun addition nevertheless.
In conclusion, Kuso was a fun little platformer that surprised me quite a bit. With well crafted level design, a good soundtrack, a very fun two player race mode, and a very accessible nature to it, Kuso ended up being a short yet sweet platforming game that I really enjoyed. While I don’t think I’ll ever put the time and effort into speedrunning this with low lives, this is still something that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of in the future, along with booting it up now and then for some platforming fun.
I give Kuso an 7 out of 10.