Arcade puzzle platforms are an anomaly in 2020 and it’s hard to know where they currently sit in the gaming space. Much like Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, Umihara Kawase BaZooka pits you in quick-fire stages where the aim is to defeat each enemy as quickly as possible by using the abilities and items at your arsenal. Before we get into the review, I’d just like to preface that I have never played an Umihara Kawase game before and hadn’t intended to before now. Therefore, the critical thought behind this review is from a perspective void of nostalgia that Umihara Kawase BaZooka is relying on.
The game’s mechanics aren’t as straightforward as one may initially think. It encourages strategic thought from the get-go when you’re deciding which way to propel yourself out of a makeshift cannon and if done correctly, you can easily take out a row of enemies. From there, you can use your lure hookshot to reel in an enemy and once obtained, shoot out a BaZooka cannonball (somehow) to take out more enemies. Many characters also have the ability to throw pellets at enemies for small amounts of damage and in addition, each character has their own secondary and special abilities too which vary from healing oneself to dodge rolling. Unfortunately, there are quite a few double-up characters with the same abilities and they seem to merely be there in order to add slightly altered cosmetic variety.
During each stage, there are a few waves of enemies to take out. These waves are small and with enough practice and skill, they can be taken out quickly and efficiently. This can come down to scoring combos by lining up enemies and taking them all out in a single BaZooka shot. As a result, it ties into the classic arcade experience which hasn’t particularly aged well in 2020.
What really hurts the excitement that this game could have generated is its slow pace. Each character feels floaty and this may be to help with accuracy for the lure hookshot but when you have friends over and they’re looking for excitement, they may not find it here.
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The boss battles are also nothing to get excited about, rather they’re simply a larger version of a previously fought enemy with a lot more HP. These fights are infuriatingly stretched out and become monotonous when you are gradually chipping away at their inflated health bar and simply going through the motions.
There are 40 levels in total, being 10 across four worlds. The gameplay is quite standard, therefore the variety comes in the game’s level design. With each stage’s waves, they’re designed to be completed quickly and the strategy is based around this. Some of these levels are well thought whilst others could have benefited from some QA feedback, that’s for sure.
Story / Personality
With Umihara Kawase BaZooka being completely lacking in the story department, its sense of self comes from the characters. However, each roster entry comes across as generic and lifeless and whilst they all have their own unique special abilities based on their traits in their notes within the character select screen, there’s not much more to say after that. The characters are that generic that two of them look exactly the same… literally, I couldn’t tell the difference.
Graphics / Art Direction
Umihara Kawase BaZooka is colourfully charming, don’t get me wrong, but it follows the trend of its generic aesthetic. As mentioned above, there are many seemingly cloned characters that add nothing but bolstering the roster numbers and the backdrops look like they could have been slapped together in Microsoft Paint.
Music / Sound Design
Keeping in theme with its presentation, Umihara Kawase BaZooka‘s soundtrack is boppy and upbeat. However once again, it falls short by its generic and uninspired tone with nothing to get excited about. The voices are also what you’d expect from a typical C-Grade anime show, being uninspired and reliant on tropes.
Final Score: 50%
Umihara Kawase BaZooka is a structurally sound game but it’s absolutely nothing to get excited about – I believe this review takes the record with the amount of times I wrote the word “generic”. That being said, it can be fun if enough people want to get around it, calling for strategic plays and utilising each character’s unique special abilities.
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