Before I start this review, I want to point out something rather special about this game and something rather exceptional about this review. First, the game itself is written by none other than our own team member, Marcos Codas. However, just because the game has been written by one of our team it doesn’t mean that I am going to be lenient in any way – far from it as readers of Vita Player will be able to attest as I have become friends with numerous game developers over the years and have been somewhat harsh in my judgment of their releases.
I do have to say that in this instance, I also acted as a Beta Tester for Kuatia so I have been witness to its ongoing development for the last month. This has been something of a blessing and a curse. Not only have I been able to assist Marcos in finding bugs and quirks that have been eliminated from this final released version of the game, but it’s also given me the chance to experience many of its nuances in play something other reviewers may not pick up on immediately. All that said, I will still be impartial so read on…
As you can no doubt guess from the screenshots, Kuatia is an endless runner. The Google Play store is flooded with them and it’s one of the most popular game genres available (at least in terms of quantity) when it comes to choosing what games to download for your smartphone or tablet. While it’s a genre that will have many groaning at the mere thought of it, it’s one that I’ve been something of a fan of -certainly on the PS Vita – including many of the more innovative variants on the genre including Jetpack Joyride, One Epic Game, or the music-themed BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.
Intentionally targeted at a younger, and more family friendly audience, it follows a young girl simply running in a paper-crafted cartoon world trying to get as far as possible without falling foul of the perilous drops and other hazards that lie in wait. Controls are simple enough – just tap the screen to jump and tap again while in the air to perform a double jump. Apart from that, it’s just a case of keeping your wits about you, your eyes open and trying to last as long as you can and trying to get bragging rights over anyone else in the household.
I mention other hazards and that’s something that made Kuatia stand out for me. As you progress throughout each run, bees appear at random to hinder you, flying towards you. You either have to jump them or hope that they won’t be in your immediate path. As you traverse further, even more creatures are added making the game tougher still but for a simplistic runner like this, it’s unusual to see “enemies” of any kind involved as part of the gameplay mechanic.
The bees were actually the bane of my life at one point during the beta period. At one time, there was a frustrating issue where the bees were mostly hidden behind the platforms. If my wife Trish and I hadn’t been involved in the testing and reported back on this, it could have lead to more than a few angry players and uninstalled games. A quick fix swiftly ensued and it made the gameplay infinitely more enjoyable.
With any endless runner, they’re not intended for extended periods of gaming and Kuatia is no exception. However, I have to say that over the last few weeks both myself and Trish have found it very hard to put down. It’s not a social game by design with no leaderboard functionality nor does it even record your personal high score so for now at least you have to remember your personal best in the game, but it has that elusive “one more go” appeal that is offered by the best in the genre. It doesn’t matter what the cause of your downfall is, you’re just strangely compelled to come back and try again no matter how frustrated you are with each passing death. As I said, it’s not a social game, but it does offer that element of competitive gameplay when the family comes together playing the game, either on their own devices or on a shared phone or tablet.
Initially I found it hard to keep hold of my phone as Trish wanted to keep taking it off me to play the game herself so I barely had a chance to get a look in. I was left with little choice (and I’m sure that this was her plan all along and with Marcos’s approval) to add her to the beta test program so she could install her own copy and that’s when the real fun began. We went from fighting over a single phone to constantly comparing scores, seeing who could edge further and further ahead. Each game played just egged the other on even more and this competition between us has been going on for weeks now.
Okay, all said and done, it’s time to cast a more critical eye over the game now. Visually the game looks good with simplistic but effective animation on the heroine, good use of paper textures for the background setting the scene well and keeping things bright and bold and certainly child friendly. It’s easy to control and isn’t bogged down with menus or unnecessary options – just the basics you need to get on and play. It’s also a small file, ever important when storage space can be at a premium with some mobile devices. And as I said before, it’s incredibly addictive, maybe too much so as I know I would have had this written sooner if my phone hadn’t have been within arms reach.
It’s not all smelling of roses though… To keep the file size small the in-game music comprises of just a short looped sample. Yes, I’ve been spoiled as a gamer over the years by longer pieces of music right back from the 8-bit era but no matter how light-hearted and jolly the music may be in the game, I did find myself reaching for the volume control after a while. Saying that, Trish ended up humming along to it…
I’ve already mentioned the lack of any form of score records whether it’s online comparisons or even a personal best record. The only thing the game does offer is a “reward” once you die. A summary screen is displayed showing your final distance traveled along with a number of stars that you have earned, each representing the difficulty of the area you’ve reached. It’s not a great deal but it is better than nothing.
The one thing I was disappointed with the most was a change made to the game during the beta period. It’s something that no-one downloading the game now will notice but originally it was developed to be played horizontally and not vertically. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the reasoning is behind the change to vertical play but it still doesn’t quite work as well for me. If it weren’t for the bees I think it wouldn’t be so bad, but when you have things flying towards you and are given very little advance warning (or of anything for that matter) it does make the game more difficult for no real reason. Almost every other endless runner I have played is presented in a horizontal formats so it does feel strange playing it vertically.
Something that I found to be a huge surprise with Kuatia is the price. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Completely free. Okay, I’m sure you’re wondering what the catch is, and so was I. All along Marcos was planning on making the game free to download but ad-supported to fund it (as seem to be most games of this nature) but at the last minute the ad-support feature was removed. It’s not a game that can offer anything in the way of in-app purchases (thankfully) so Marcos opted to release the game absolutely free of charge! No strings attached, this is a rarity these days so there’s no excuse for not downloading and at least trying Kuatia if you have even a remote interest in endless runners because of its relatively small file size.
Despite a few minor issues that I had with it, Kuatia is a great, fun, and fiendishly addictive game. As long as your phone or tablet is running version 5.0 or higher of Android then it will cope with this happily and being completely free and using only 30Mb of space, there’s really no excuse for giving this a go.
Kuatia is available now and can be downloaded from the Google Play store at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bds.kuatia