Kraino Origins is a retro-styled platformer in which you will take control of Kraino, a resurrected warrior that wields a scythe to slay his foes and stop Dr. Bacula's evil plan... or so I think.
Starting off, Kraino Origins gives you a bit of an overview of the title's story, with an evil Dr. Bacula raising the dead, and I believe he raised Kraino, a force of good, who turns against him and tries to foil his plans. That said, early on in the story, and even several levels down the line, I wasn't really sure what my goal was. Considering this is a retro title, I don't want to spend too much time complaining about the story — it feels wrong to do so in these sorts of games. The dialogue is essentially non-existent, but that is the whole point of a retro title; what matters most is its gameplay.
Kraino Origins is a relatively short title, one that I — as an adept platformer — managed to breeze through without much hassle. My wife, on the other hand, doesn't play a whole lot of platforming titles to begin with, and struggled a fair bit with it. Dying a lot in some areas, forgetting where some enemies are spawning, and overall stumbling to make it to the other checkpoint — which were often spaced relatively far apart from one another — weren't uncommon struggles throughout her playthrough. That is something that Kraino Origins either excels or terribly fails at, depending on what your skill level is: its difficulty.
Each level has checkpoints that are pretty distant from one another, making reaching the end of the world reasonably tricky for those that struggle to get through some of the levels. I found Kraino Origins to be straightforward and fairly simple, often making it through the world with very few deaths — most of which can be attributed to the lack of health potions that are present throughout the level.
Throughout each level, you’ll find hidden items that you’ll be able to collect in order to raise your mana and HP bar; these were often relatively simple to find, as they were hidden behind cracked walls that were fairly easy to notice for those with a keen eye. A platforming puzzle later, you’ll either get a fragment of HP to raise your HP or an entire mana boost to allow you to cast more spells (more on that later). The collectables are very enjoyable to find and simple enough that it won’t feel like a boring grind to do so, which is a complaint I often have with these titles, and they add another thing to do outside merely getting to the end of the level.
To get to the end of the world, you'll have to fight your way through ghouls, vampires, werewolves, and all manner of Halloween creatures that stand between you and your goal. Fighting enemies is relatively straightforward, as Kraino has access to his trusty scythe to attack in front of him, make a special attack, and he’s even learned some pogo-jumping skills from Hollow Knight! Aside from that, you'll encounter one new vendor per level that sells you a skill that you can use to facilitate combat, often getting an ability that is particularly helpful against a specific foe that you might be struggling with. These skills drain your mana bar, meaning you won't be able to spam them, but enemies and breakable objects sprawled throughout the environment will raise this bar reasonably quickly, making it something you can reliably use in combat. Although there are six abilities to use, each with individual upgrades to get, I often stuck to one or two and ignored the rest, as those two were the ones that I found most useful whilst the others were more situational.
Combat is incredibly straightforward, but it is — unfortunately — Kraino Origins' most significant downfall. Despite enemies only doing one action, which makes it easy for you to learn what each foe will try to beat you, Kraino's scythe and abilities feel rather clunky to do, presenting a slight delay before the attack goes out. As far as I could tell, this was due to the scythe's movement, with the attack triggering at the apex of the animation. Although the animation is smooth and looks nice, it makes for a delayed attack, which meant I often got hit by enemies despite having a relatively quick reaction time to their appearance. Similarly, the pogo-jumping attack required me to hit the button earlier to anticipate the slight delay, though this animation was far quicker, so it felt smoother.
At the end of every world, you'll encounter a boss that will be the final hurdle between you and your next foe. These bosses often have criminally high HP that you'll have to dwindle whilst ensuring that you yourself don't take damage from their attacks. Often pattern-based, all it really took was learning what each animation meant, and you could easily dodge the attack. Bosses were fun and oftentimes the highlight of each level, but I do wish that the game had received just a little bit more love when it came to its combat. The patterns became predictable, as it often felt like the next boss merely gained an extra attack or two and otherwise kept the same kit that the previous one had.
One area where Kraino Origins excels, however, is the game's aesthetics and sound design. Fantastic music played whilst I ventured through the Halloween-esque environments. However, none of the graphical feats compares to the breathtaking parallax background that made the experience feel more profound than just a 2D world. Although this was barely noticeable in the game due to Kraino Origins' hectic and quick-paced gameplay, that didn't stop me from sitting down and admiring it every once in a while.
Finally, I'd like to mention the playtime — Kraino Origins is a short title that you should be able to finish in a quick session should you be capable of passing the platforming and combat sequences without much struggle. You'll only get a few hours of gameplay, but what you do get is enjoyable.
Kraino Origins is far from perfect, but it shouldn't strive to be; staying true to its retro roots — oftentimes too much — means that you get a retro experience through and through. If you are a retro enthusiast, there is little reason not to try out the game, so long as you bear in mind that the combat can often be rough. The platforming is enjoyable, and if you fancy a retro title reminiscent of Ghosts 'n Goblins or Castlevania, Kraino Origins does a decent job at being just that.
Kraino Origins (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Born and raised with retro in its roots, Kraino Origins is a great title for retro enthusiasts seeking to experience something reminiscent of Ghosts 'n Goblins or Castlevania, though I do wish the combat had been a little less rough on the edges.