Thursday 20 June 2019

Katana Zero review: All killer, no filler

(Switch/PS4/PC) **** Age: 18+

Katana Zero
Katana Zero
Katana Zero
Dangerous Driving
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Imagine you're an assassin forced to visit a psychiatrist after every mission. How disturbed must you feel? How evil have you just been? That's one of the many imponderables in Katana Zero, an ultra-stylish cyberpunk slash-'em-up that echoes the notorious nihilism of Hotline Miami.

Not everything is what it seems, of course, as KZ juxtaposes callous murder sprees with the lonely mundanity of life in an apartment block. It slips the bonds of time and generally messes with reality as your assassin learns to predict the future, giving you infinite attempts to learn and perfect the sequence of jumps, slashes and pauses that will complete your mission safely.

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As in Hotline Miami, you tackle a series of 2D side-scrolling rooms like a puzzle, deploying tactics including slo-mo, dodge roll and stealth to dispatch the villains (at least we think they're villains). Pulling off a tightly executed series of moves feels immensely satisfying, requiring exquisite timing as well as patience.

Such bloodletting is punctuated by unsettling conversations with bystanders, a depressing home life and consultations with your sinister shrink (if indeed he is who he says he is). It all adds up to… something - the main problem being Katana Zero ends too soon, abruptly even. Maybe a sequel will declare the entire thing a dream.


Dangerous Driving

(XO/PS4/PC) *** Age: 7+

Dangerous Driving

You've got to admire the dogged determination involved in remaking the same game over and over. The creators of Burnout do it, even though they're now a small indie developer instead of being part of the EA Borg where they reaped most success.

Dangerous Driving is still arcade racer Burnout, just with a drastically reduced budget. The lavish presentation is missing but the engaging kernel remains - driving exceptionally fast, smashing rivals and wrecking at high speed.

It entertains up to a point but it's like wrestling a greasy missile around a ski slalom. There's lack of readability in its visuals that make dodging crashes too hard. Factor in the randomness of incidental traffic and the sheen of Burnout-lite begins to ebb.

Speaking as a huge fan of the originals, Dangerous Driving still gets my blood pumping, but as frequently in anger as in excitement.

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