Kandria is a mix of a few different genres – hack’n’slash, platformer, and RPG – with a fleshed-out world, gorgeous graphics, stellar sound design, and the kind of irresistible indie charm you can only get from a game made by a handful of passionate geeks. That being said, as an indie game, it lacks a lot of the polish that comes with a bigger studio, and some of its design choices evoke the downsides of the retro games Kandria is reminiscent of.
Is it worthy of a purchase or should you play something else?
For the Love of the (Indie) Game
The developers behind Kandria, Shirakumo Games or Shirakumo Collective, are a small, international team based out of Switzerland.
One of the team members, Nicolas Haffner, known online as Shinmera, dropped out of his studies in order to dedicate his time to the game at the start of its development cycle. He and some of the other team members post about the game on Reddit and elsewhere online, and if you spend enough time looking through their posts about the game, two things become clear: their big fans of Lisp (a programming language family), and they put a ton of love and effort into what was originally started as a showcase for their in-house engine.
A Well Oiled Machine
Kandria is a game that’s packed with lots to love. Whether it’s the story surrounding an amnesiac android in a post-apocalyptic world, the charming pixel art, or the challenging platforming elements, most players will have something that’ll draw them in, especially if they like games like Celeste, the team’s main source of inspiration.
A Living World
From the very start of the game, Kandria pulls you into its immersive setting.
Set in the distant but not-too-distant future, you’re an abandoned android who awakens and cannot even remember her name. You are found by a young woman who’s part of a group of humans who have tried to return to the Earth’s surface while, seemingly, the rest of humanity has built a world below.
Without spoiling too much of the story, it’s up to you as a battle-ready android to help this group of humans, alongside others, survive in an inhospitable environment while another group aims to kill them off and take their resources. All while hoping to unlock more of your own past.
While it does have exposition-heavy dialogue at times, it never feels overbearing, and much of the setting is learned about by playing the game itself and exploring. You don’t just get told about how bleak the situation is, you see it in a failed field of bad crops.
No Misplaced Pixels Here
The game features beautifully crafted pixel art mixed with anime-style character portraits for dialogue. It’s got beautiful animations, especially in combat. The map for the game is huge, and the team does a great job of making sure it never gets boring by mixing up the background art so that each area has its own distinct look and feel.
Some rather minor details that stood out were how Kandria does a lot graphically with pixel art that, on the surface, seems simple. At certain points, going from a well-lit area to a darker one or vice versa leads to an interesting effect as your eyes adjust. Going up on the surface when it’s hot and the sun is out causes waves.
Substance That Matches Its Style
Part precision platformer, part hack’n’slash, Kandria does just the right amount of each without feeling like it suffers from a lack of depth or tries to do too many things at once.
The platforming segments are challenging (more on that later) and will keep you hooked. The fighting mechanics, while easily cheesed, provide enough variation and depth that allow you to do some pretty interesting combos if you don’t just spam light attack. The gameplay feels really responsive, too, so you never feel frustrated by that, even if you die to a difficult platforming puzzle or during a boss fight.
Possibly the most interesting aspect of Kandria is starting off with all of your movement and fighting abilities. As the game progresses, you can unlock more damage for your sword, but you start the game with your dash, your crawl, your light and heavy attacks, etc. This allows you to explore any room in the game right from the get-go if you can manage to defeat the enemies that are present there. It’s perfect for finding the numerous unlockable color palettes that pay homage to movies, TV shows, and other games, like Cave Story, Carmen Sandiego, Kill Bill, Lupin the Third, and more.
Do Androids Dream of Less Frustrating Level Design?
Kandria is a solid indie title, but it’s not without flaws. It actually has quite a few, mainly due to the difficulty of some of its platforming segments and some of the team’s design choices.
I’m Tired of These Mother Flipping Wall Spikes!
Kandria will captivate you with its retro aesthetic one moment then slap you across the face with its matching old-school difficulty the next. This game is both a hack’n’slash and a platformer. Both aspects of its gameplay can be challenging, and it’s not always in a fun way.
The game boasts 250 rooms throughout its massive map, and many of these rooms are filled with platforming puzzles. At first, the challenge is enough to get you hooked on them. They stay fresh, for the most part, by introducing different elements that always keep you on your toes, like glowing orbs that replenish your dash or platforms that move when you touch them.
As their difficulty increases, so, too, does your frustration. There are rarely checkpoints involved in these rooms; you can perfectly execute jump after jump, slash in the air to hit the right spot on a platform, and time your movements perfectly to get from point a to points b, c, d, e, and f, but if you accidentally touch one of the countless wall spikes, you’re taken back to the start of the room. Most of the time, this isn’t an issue, but sometimes, it’ll take dozens of attempts to backtrack through an area to complete a quest. It can feel meaninglessly punishing and like a waste of your time.
The combat, too, can feel overly punishing. Health kits are few and far between, so if you’re not careful, you’ll go through much of the game with low health. You can handle most enemies by spamming the light attack and not take any damage, but sometimes one will hit you and send you back to your last save point. Over and over.
Dude, Where’s My Autosave?
Remember when autosaving wasn’t the industry standard? Kandria will help you remember if you forgot.
Players must find an area with a payphone booth in order to be able to save. It’s a bit charming at first, but when the difficulty ramps up, it can be frustrating to have to redo the same fights and platforming challenges that you just finished because you got hit once by a level 12 enemy on your way back to an area that lets you save.
Adding to this frustration is the fact that the areas with phone booths in them are few and far between. When you’re doing your first run-through of the game and don’t know the location of your next save, it leaves you on edge as you’re not sure if 20-30 minutes of gameplay is about to be erased by a poorly timed dash into an enemy’s attack.
Kandria: While the downsides can be apparent when you’re in a particularly difficult area, they’re not so bad that you can’t enjoy the rest of what this game has to offer. For such a solid title to come out of an indie team’s desire to make a test game for their in-house engine, Kandria gets a 7/10. It’s definitely worth a playthrough. – Joey
What are your thoughts on Kandria? Have you played it yet? Do you agree or disagree with the reviewer’s assessment? Let us know in the comments. While you’re here, why not check out our Pokemon Scarlet and Violet review
Please note that this review is based on a review copy of the game provided to us by the publisher. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game and all thoughts and opinions expressed are our own.