The C&F company — standing for “Cat & Frog” — is the proud proprietor to a series of a teleporter stations helping to provide fast transit about the world, and the company’s president doesn’t take nicely to things gumming up the works by shutting them all down. Unfortunately, there has recently been a growing series of outbreaks involving C&F’s teleporters wherein numerous anomalous black creatures — known as “Negativus Legatia” — keep showing up. That’s where you — Kero — come in, you’re a bipedal frog whom specializes in something that has perhaps been best described by one of your colleagues as “Custodial Sciences”. Although you most certainly are a janitor in that you’ve been tasked with thoroughly cleaning places up, you specifically do this job by blasting every last Negativus Legatia — via very big guns — back to wherever it is they came from.

Lock and load, Mr. Froggy, because it’s time to mop this place up!

screen568x568Thus goes the premise to Kero Blaster (out now, $4.99), the latest action-packed — pixel graphics filled — blast’em-up adventure from the creator of the legendary Cave Story: Daisuke Amaya! For many of you this was probably all you really needed to know in order to stop reading this and immediately begin downloading Kero Blaster, which isn’t surprising since there are quite a few reasons why Cave Story is held in such high regard. Meanwhile, for those of you whom haven’t yet played through Cave Story — which is already available on a wide array of devices, yet somehow still not the iOS itself — you really should consider rectifying this oversight sometime in the near future.

Anyways — for those of you still reading this — Kero Blaster is a side-scrolling shoot everything affair that might best be compared to games such as Contra, wherein you’re tasked with blasting/navigating your through seven very different enemy-packed stages. This here is perhaps one of the two most significant differences between Kero Blaster and Cave Story, for although Cave Story centers itself on exploration — borrowing heavily from the Metroidvania genre — Kero Blaster is entirely based around linear game play. Although you generally won’t be backtracking to find hidden secrets in earlier areas when playing Kero Blaster, there are some secrets that can only be discovered during a “New Game +” (wherein you may begin an all new game with your fully maxed arsenal).

Anyways, on the screen’s left hand side are your left and right movement buttons — which perform exactly as expected — and on the far right you have Kero’s jump button (which is quite the multi-tasking marvel here). Not only will Kero jump a variable height based upon how long you hold down the jump button, but you can additionally order him to double jump — once he first obtains the requisite Rocket Pack — or even to climb ladders. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that the gravity in Kero Blaster — similar to Cave Story before it — has this oddly floaty feeling whenever you perform a maximum length jump across a chasm.

screen568x568Somewhere between the aforementioned walk and jump buttons is Kero’s rather unique attack button, although it would probably be for more accurate to describe this as a toggle rather than a button. Kero will not fire his infinite-ammo gun when the toggle is left at its default position, but will fire either up — left — or right whenever the toggled is moved towards the matching direction. Since the toggle clamps down whenever it is released, you can move in any viable direction in Kero Blaster — even backwards — while you continue to undauntedly blast away at your chosen facing. Furthermore — although there exists no button for specifically aiming down — some of Kero’s guns enable him to hit targets placed lower than he is, but these aren’t weapons that you’ll initially begin with.

Finally — on the upper right hand corner — is a button that will simultaneously pause the action, as well as bring up a list of all the guns currently present within Kero’s arsenal. From here you may freely switch to any of your other weapons — all of which have unique properties — in order to best tackle the dilemma currently at hand, which is something that you’ll need to do frequently for optimal results (especially on your initial play through). Although it might seem as though Kero Blasters’ inputs are a bit convoluted — especially for a game with a volume of blasting action typical for Daisuke Amaya — I can assure you that everything works very well, having flawlessly survived the touch screen translation.

Additionally — control matters aside — as you plow your way through to total extermination of the Negativus Legatia, you will commonly find giant shiny coins dropped by the various — and often comical — foes that Kero will eradicate left and right. These coins can be used to permanently upgrade the power levels of your various weapons — to extend the length of your life bar — or to even buy one-time items, such as full health restores that kick in upon death. It is worth noting that whether you successfully reach the next stage — or fail utterly, via losing your last life — you will always maintain hold of every life bar and weapon upgrade that you’ve purchased so far.

screen568x568Kero Blaster is — in this regard — far more generous towards failure than Cave Story originally was, with players never needing to worry about having massive chunks of progress undone by untimely demises when they occur. Whereas Quote had precisely one life to live before disaster struck — forcing paranoid saving — Kero begins each game with three whole extra lives in reserve, as well as whatever he can find and/or purchase. Although losing all three of these lives will send Kero back to the current stage’s absolute beginning, only losing a single life will merely send him back to the start of the most recent room reached (which is generally never all that far back).

This isn’t — however — my attempt to explain how Kero Blaster is way easier than Cave Story, so all of you hardcore gaming fans can stop worrying and breathe a collective sigh of relief. If anything, I’d say that the fixed level designs — versus the earlier open world exploration — has encouraged Daisuke Amaya to implement a series of far more coldly calculated traps and obstacles. This is probably done with the knowledge that it’s okay to be mean, all because — given enough failures — you’ll eventually grind up the necessary coins with which to achieve a power level that you can conquer the current stage by.

However — should you for some reason still not be ready to make up your mind in regards to purchasing Kero Blaster — I have more great news for you, as there currently exists something that just might help you make up your mind: Pink Hour (out now, free). Starring Kero’s amorphous pink co-worker — whom also happens to be named Pink — this free demo of Kero Blaster’s game play tells a story taking place sometime before the main title, which furthermore isn’t repeated during the course of Kero Blaster at all! Finally, the opponents and obstacles found within Pink Hour serve as a theoretical stage zero — in terms of Kero Blaster’s difficulty curve — that aims to help better ease newcomers into Daisuke Amaya’s special brand of hardcore side-scrolling action.

screen568x568Anyways — game play matters aside — Kero Blaster is an absolute delight to look at, assuming you happen to be a fan of Daisuke Amaya’s admittedly esoteric retro-graphics style. Your quest to clean up the company’s teleporters will take you across a variety of locales (all of them varied and unique): lush forests, abandoned hotels, underground caverns, dangerous factories, city streets run amok, and much more. Furthermore, your enemies will always be very inventive and bizarre, such as a possessed clock that comes running at you — via cartoonish legs — in an attempt to catch up with the train you’re on.

Although it might sound as though Daisuke Amaya has once again struck pure gold, there is one particular aspect of Kero Blaster that may actually heavily disappoint those whom have already played through Cave Story. Kero Blaster — much like Cave Story before it — opens up with a plot that is advanced via between stage cut scenes, however — unlike Quote — Kero’s plot fails to reach a satisfying conclusion by the time the credits roll. While the game raises some grave concerns with the greater truth behind the Negativus Legatia you are constantly cleaning up, saving the day will neither unravel these mysteries nor definitively ensure the end of either Kero’s lamentations or his overtime. There isn’t even a special secret ending that may be found in order to shed more light upon these mysteries, although there does exist a secret ending within Pink Hour which hints that this lack of resolution may be due to a deliberately planned upcoming sequel.

Either way — plot resolution issues aside — Kero Blaster is still pure gaming bliss, and absolutely should not be missed by anyone whom ever grew up during either the eight or sixteen bit eras of gaming.

Verdict

Kero Blaster is yet another amazing side-scrolling blast’em-up adventure from Daisuke Amaya, the creator of the legendary Cave Story, although containing a far more linear-level based setup than the creator’s previous game. Between tight controls — retro pixel art graphics — and seven very different levels of enemies to blast, Kero’s janitorial duties are yet another wondrous five-star tribute to the golden age of side-scrolling adventures. Furthermore, should you still find yourself undecided, there even exists a special demo — entitled Pink Hour — that serves as both an introduction to Kero Blaster’s game play and a unique prologue to full game’s plot. The only downside to Kero Blaster — for those whose standards have already been set high by Cave Story — is that the game’s story lacks the sort of resolution you’re going to be expecting, although there are implications of a potential sequel in the works.