How do you know when you have found a good platform game? For me, it’s when a seemingly simple looking level has you cursing out loud. I am not talking about janky mechanics causing you to fall to your death here. I am talking about simple design, kicking your butt because you got sloppy. House of Secrets platformer puzzle game, KIN, had me swearing like a salty dog for all the right reasons.
If I am completely honest, I almost wrote this game off. Sure, it looked okay. Cute graphics, simple gameplay, and a cheap price tag. It launched on GearVR back in December and the reviews made it sound interesting enough. But really, how good can this little mobile game be on the Rift? Let’s take a look at that.
Looking Through the Portal
The concept here is simple. KIN is a platformer that includes combat and puzzle elements. You take on the role of a mysterious, but adorable, young lady that finds herself in a savage land. Armed with a sword, boomerang, and incredible balance, we must navigate this land from one portal to the next.
Between each portal, we come across increasingly difficult puzzles standing in our way. If that isn’t bad enough, we also have an increasingly difficult array of enemies that would love to blow us up or push us to our doom. Toss in a smattering of wonderfully difficult boss fights and stunning landscapes, and you have KIN.
From Platform to Platform
Each level provides you with two portals, the one you came through and the one you need to figure out how to open and get to. The platformer aspect of KIN comes, of course, from jumping and balancing your way through the crazy environments between each portal. This part of the game is pretty straight forward. Take your time, try not to get twitchy with the controls, and look to your robot friend whenever you interact with objects. He servers as your guide when things get chaotic.
The combat consists of stunning bad guys with your boomerang and then slashing them with your sword. To aid you in combat, you have a handy dash and a jump attack. Just be careful you don’t dash off a cliff. The bad guys increase in variety as the game progresses, making the encounters slightly more dynamic than just hack and slash. You almost have to dance your way through the fights as you dash to avoid aerial attacks and charging blocks.
The puzzles take the shape of platforms that we need to figure out how to manipulate, and then navigate. These generally come in the form of pylons that we need to strike in order to discover what they do. Once you figure that out, you just need to figure out their function in the grand scheme of things. Not horribly complex, but later in the game you will have multiple puzzles to solve, all while dealing with the combat and platform elements.
How She Handles
You can play KIN with a gamepad or touch controllers on the Rift. The button layout works well on both setups, but I did feel like the touch controllers joysticks did feel a bit twitchier than using a gamepad. Nothing unbearable, but it does take some getting used to. The layout, on both, is easy enough to pick up thanks to the tutorial levels at the start of the game.
You can play KIN seated or standing, but I totally recommend standing. The reason for this is due to the lack of any camera movement in the game. As the levels increase in scale and complexity, you’re going to want to get a closer look at things. Luckily, every level fits perfectly into the range of smaller play areas. I have yet to come across anything that I can’t take a few steps towards or lean into, in order to get a better look.
KIN also has three difficulty settings for both the puzzle and combat game elements. This lets you adjust everything around your ideal platformer experience. I thought this was a little odd at first, but then I came across my first boss fight. I could easily see how being stuck on a boss fight, when you came for a platform game, could be a bad experience.
A Beautiful World
Graphically, KIN is beautiful on the Rift. The devs included options to ramp up the cartoonish image quality and I recommend you do. In early levels, you’re not going to see much that might indicate that this is a big deal. However, in later levels, you will start to see more dynamic levels that are incredibly beautiful. From the glowing effects, to the wildlife found in the various environments, KIN is definitely eye candy on the Rift.
Your little robot companion deserves a bit of mention here as well. Not only does he look cool and display important prompts during gameplay, but he also keeps your HUD clean. Your health, power meter, and lives are all projected above him when they are needed. This is an awesome design decision that keeps this game looking beautiful by removing distractions.
The audio in KIN is as cartoonish as the graphics. Nothing realistic, but they work for the style of game and everything has a satisfying sound. The melodic soundtrack keeps you feeling relaxed, but they did include options to turn everything up or down as you see fit.
Dashing to Glory
I really need to point out the boss battles in KIN. These are the types of encounters that really make for fun combat. Each boss has unique mechanics that change throughout the fight. You will need to figure out how to deal with each one while using all your platforming and combat skills. It’s a perfect way to break up a platformer, with a high dose of adrenaline after every few levels.
The story, sadly, is still a bit of a mystery to me. Early on, we encounter a flashback that introduces another mystery character that crash landed on the planet we find ourselves on. It becomes clear that we are following in their footsteps, but to what end, I do not know. Why, you ask? Because after several hours, I have only found myself about a quarter of the way through the 50+ levels. Now, the playtime will vary from user to user, but for $9.99 this is a healthy amount of content. The slowly developing story is just mysterious enough to keep me guessing and wanting to push on.
If you’re looking for a new game on the Rift or GearVR, even if you’re not into platformer games, I can’t help but recommend this one. It is deceptively simple, stunningly beautiful, and highly addictive. You can pick up KIN on the Oculus store for $9.99. Happy hunting VR gamers and remember to use your dash with caution.