Boom, or Bust?
Title: Umihara Kawase BaZooka
Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
Publisher: ININ Games
Reviewed on: Switch
Also on: PlayStation 4, Windows
Release: October 30, 2020
If you've ever listened to the podcast, you may have heard me complain during one of my "old man" rants that games nowadays are too long. I will often yearn for the old days of gaming, where you played to reach a high score, or to challenge yourself to get just a bit further. Luckily, the Switch has a lot of these types of games. Some, in fact, are pulled right from the arcades, or classic systems themselves.
Umihara Kawase is considered one of these types of games. Originally hitting the Super Famicom back in 1994, Umihara Kawase is a typical arcade-platformer, where you traverse levels while using a fishing line and lure to capture enemies. It was a pretty basic game, but did find some success in Japan. Versions of the game were subsequently released for the PlayStation One, PlayStation Portable and Vita, Nintendo DS and 3DS, and eventually on the Nintendo Switch.
The Switch version, which we'll talk about here, is called Umihara Kawase BaZooka, and, while similar in gameplay to the original, has some pretty stark differences. As opposed to making your way through levels traditionally, this game takes more of an arcade approach. In order to clear each level, you are required to grab an enemy, turn them into ammo for your bazooka, destroy enemies, and collect a certain number of coins in order to clear each level. But you must act fast, as each level is timed. If you don't collect enough coins, it's game over. Think of it like a cross between Kirby's Adventure and Bubble Bobble. Your character not only has their bazooka, but also special moves that use up a meter that replenishes over time.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward: it's similar to a party game in which you and up to three friends take on these levels (both locally and online). To such, if you want to work with your team to clear the levels you can, but if you want the game to be a little more competitive, you have that option as well. There are 4 worlds in the game, each with 9 levels and a boss battle. There isn't a whole lot of depth to the game, but it's an arcade title, so that's to be expected.
Depending on your skill level, there are several options for controls. If you're new to the game (as I was), you can choose a control scheme that gives for a bit of auto-aim and auto-reel for your lure. As you choose the more difficult settings (semi-automatic and technical), control of your main weapon is turned over to you. I highly recommend starting off on beginner, as the game doesn't really give you much by ways of a tutorial stage. There is a “how to play” choice in the menu, which just gives you a step-by-step guide to playing, but “reading” and “doing” are two totally different things.
There's a pretty wide variety of characters to choose from – over twenty – and the character select screen could be easily mistaken for a Super Smash Bros. game. Each character has their own special moves, so be sure to tinker around with the characters and find one or two that suits your playing style. I did enjoy the variety of characters, as it allowed me to tackle the levels differently.
When I said the game plays like an arcade title, I am not lying. It checks all the important “arcade game” boxes: time limit, points modifiers, tough levels, and bosses. You want to aim your shots as perfectly as possible, because hitting multiple enemies increases your score and can earn you a power ball that you can use for even stronger ammo.
While the game itself does work as it should, there are a few issues. First, the knockback is brutal. Umihara Kawase BaZooka enemy knockback makes Castlevania's knockback look downright childish, When you are hit by an enemy you bounce back, land on your butt, and keep bouncing until you stop – completely. If you drop a golf ball and stare at bounce until it stops moving, that's what this is like. I actually timed it myself – it takes about three and a half seconds to recover from a knockback. It can get pretty frustrating when you're fighting against the clock and have to wait to regain control of your character.
Umihara Kawase BaZooka is definitely not for everyone. It's without a doubt challenging, even borderline unfair at times. It's also not a game you'll be playing for long periods. The regaular campaign can be completed in one sitting, but the multiplayer, additional characters, and single-screen arcade style of gameplay add to the replay factor. If you're a fan of this classic style, then Umihara Kawase BaZooka may be right for you. If you are easily turned off by a challenge and some frustrating elements, then you may want to look elsewhere.