Testing Kraino Origins – 2D action platformer in the footsteps of Castlevania and Co.

Testing Kraino Origins – 2D action platformer in the footsteps of Castlevania and Co.

In the 1980s, 2D action platformers like Castlevania or Ghosts 'n Goblins made the hearts of many action lovers beat faster. With their chilling environments and grotesque enemy design, they created an aesthetic that is still remembered by many today. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few signs of life, the former scary action franchises have been pretty quiet in recent years. Developer GameAtomic wants to fill this gap with the relatively young Kraino series, of which the first offshoot Kraino Origins is now finding its way to the Nintendo Switch, around six months after it was first published on Steam. In our test, we'll tell you whether Kraino is able to fill the big footsteps of the series that inspired the title.

When the creature directed against her master...

The evil Dr. Batcula creates an army of monsters, using the power of magic and science to bring fallen warriors back to life to fight for him. But his magic doesn't work on Kraino, who remains on the side of good after his resurrection and makes it his mission to save Dr. Destroy Batcula and his army. It doesn't need more exposure - and maybe that's a good thing, because the German translation looks like it came from the Google translator - so that you can put yourself in the role of the eponymous skeleton warrior Kraino (with his fancy hat) in the fight against a whole lot of undead and other horrible creatures. Using a small world map, which is reminiscent of Super Mario World, for example – if Super Mario World were a scary game – you go to the first of a total of eight levels and mix up the evil there properly.

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A simple world map shows you which collectibles you have already found in the levels

© Elden Pixels

In terms of gameplay, Kraino Origins is a 2D action-platformer where you explore the levels mostly from left to right, jumping over chasms and floating platforms while swinging around with your trusty scythe. Along the way, you'll encounter a variety of enemies, from simple back-and-forth ghouls and skeletons to fire-breathing gargoyles and annoyingly flying skulls - there's no shortage of variety. If you hit the opponents or obstacles in the area, you not only lose some life force, but are also thrown back properly, especially when jumping. Therefore, caution is advised when advancing, because it will not be uncommon for you to fall into an abyss or deadly spikes due to the recoil. Should your undead skeleton warrior die again, you will be reset to a checkpoint and lose some of your collected money. If you manage to reach the place of your death again, you can collect the money there again. If you die again on the way there, the money is lost and the next part of your fortune is snatched from you. Luckily, the checkpoints are spread out fairly generously, so you don't have to be prepared for too much frustration.

In the levels you can occasionally destroy brittle walls, um to reveal secret areas beyond. Here you will find medallions or medallion fragments that can permanently increase your life and magic power. Also hiding in the levels is the traveling trader Kalcimore, who sells you secondary weapons that you can use using your magic powers. These include, for example, a fireball that you can shoot straight ahead to finish off enemies from afar, a throwing ax or a bomb that is suspiciously reminiscent of the holy water from a certain Belmont. You will also need these secondary weapons, because the enemies will become more and more numerous over time and come up with more and more nasty tricks to make it more difficult for you to advance. Smaller challenges await you between the levels, where you have to master a longer section without checkpoints on the way to get Green Skulls, with which you can even upgrade the secondary weapons one more time.

As a highlight, a boss fight against a member of Dr. Batcula's spooky chamber of horrors

© Elden Pixels

At the end of each main level, a boss fight awaits you. Some trial and error is certainly required here, since the bosses have significantly more life energy than you and you have to see through their attack patterns first. Fortunately, there is also a checkpoint in front of each boss room, so that you can try your luck again immediately after a failed attempt. During the levels you will occasionally find healing items in cracked walls that restore your health. Otherwise you unfortunately have no way of healing, which is why you start again with full energy when you respawn at a checkpoint. The candles, which are also strongly reminiscent of Castlevania and which hang around in all levels and can be destroyed by you, often refresh your magic points so that you can use your secondary weapons diligently. Only in the boss encounters should you think carefully about when you want to use which spell, because there is no way to refill the magical energy.

Graphically, Kraino offers Origins has a nice pixelated look, but it doesn't really stand out due to the abundance of games with a similar look on the market. However, the fact that you can choose between several filters for the graphic display in order to adapt the look a little to your preferences is worthy of praise. The sound design is also basically successful, thanks to the individual songs that play in the individual levels. However, the melodies don't stay in your head for very long. And I have to admit that I can already see that the events of the rather short title are already fading from my memory a short time after playing through the game. If you put your mind to it, Kraino Origins can be played through in a single session without any problems. Even if you repeatedly fail in some passages, the title shouldn't tie you to the screen for more than five hours.

Has one or the other allusion to other games also crept into the world of Kraino Origins

© Elden Pixels

While the game didn't crash during my testing phase, like a trained tracker, I stumbled across a bug twice didn't affect the game tremendously, but forced me to drop Kraino to his death in order to continue playing. So I had opened the inventory, then went back to the Nintendo Switch Home Menu and turned off the console to resume the game later. However, I was confronted with the fact that the inventory no longer wanted to close, at least visually. While I was looking at the inventory screen, the game was still running in the background and I was able to drop Kraino into a chasm, which finally allowed me to close the inventory after respawning at the last checkpoint. Another time, stepping through a door would move the camera to the next screen, while Kraino stayed on the last screen, out of my view. Here, too, the only thing that helped was jumping into the redeeming spikes. On the other hand, what I found really annoying during testing were the descending metallic platforms that are introduced late in the game. Many times my jump button would not respond when Kraino was on such a platform, causing me to fall to my death. I even had doubts about my controller for a moment, but I'm sure that Kraino's interaction with such platforms was simply poorly programmed. Basically, I never found the level of difficulty of the game to be frustrating due to the many checkpoints, but when a bad conversion of a key input is responsible for repeated deaths, the mood is then eventually in the basement...

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