It’s not often that I write a negative review, but based on my experience with Captain Kaon I feel it’s more than fair. Perhaps the feedback will help the developer in the future. I feel like this is what “Early Access” is for, and I believe in the system even if many don’t. It’s a useful tool for budding developers. Anyway, let’s get into it.
In Captain Kaon you are a pilot who was in prison serving her time, until an alien fleet suddenly attacks, leaving a shortage of pilots to defend humanity. Since desperate times call for desperate measures, Kaon receives an early release on the condition that she pilots a ship against the invaders. Simple premise, but it works. Kaon’s design (the one time she’s shown on screen in the intro) fits her archetype very well, and matches her situation. She appears as sort of a battle-hardened veteran, perfect for taking the fight to the alien invaders.
Captain Kaon boasts an old school, retro aesthetic, harking back to the NES and even the Amiga days of gaming. This is fine, and everything looks great considering. Your ship is well detailed, as are most items out in the world and environment. Environmental obstacles such as mechanical structures, lasers, doors, and power stations look great as well. The graphics are probably Captain Kaon’s best feature.
Everything here feels like it needs work. It felt really, really basic. And that’s probably to match the graphical aesthetic, sure, but it could be a lot better. The intro sequence that explains the game’s story doesn’t have any sound effects or music, for example! Unbelievable. Some kind of sinister theme playing during that sequence would help enhance it and set the tone of the game.
Captain Kaon is a twin-stick gravity shmup. You pilot a ship through various environments and complete various objectives to progress. At least, that’s what it seems like. I had a couple of serious problems in the tutorial level of the game that prevented me from going any further, or even accessing the main campaign.
The game has a great concept. So far, I really like it. But my main issue here are the controls and how flighty/vulnerable the flight controls are. Using a controller, you steer with the left analog stick and accelerate with the left trigger. You aim and fire your ship’s gun with the right analog stick. The control scheme itself is fine, I can work with that, and have in many other games. The problem is how… loose actually flying is. You never know how much acceleration to apply in any given situation, and I often ended up ramming into the environment and other obstacles unintentionally. In a previous patch, this caused massive damage to your ship, but that seems to have dialed back quite a bit.
My other problem, which is what ultimately stopped me from progressing, is the grappling hook. Your ship comes equipped with a free-hanging grappling hook that you can use to pick up and carry items. These items range from batteries to Supply Crates that give you extra resources when you make it to the end of a level with them. One needs only to land on top of the item to have the hook automatically attach to the item so you can fly off with it in tow. In the tutorial level, you are required to pickup a battery with the grappling hook and carry it to a power station to open a door. I tried on numerous occasions to pick up this battery, but the hook would not attach to it. I spent FIVE HOURS in the tutorial trying to do this task, but no matter what I did the hook would not attach. It would help if there was some sort of skip tutorial option, but if there is I did not find it.
Captain Kaon seems like a promising title, but it needs quite a bit more work and some polish. I feel like when it’s done it’ll be a great title in the shmup genre. I’ll be sure to keep it in mind and give it another shot once it’s cleaned up and out of Early Access. But right now, I can’t recommend it.