As a dual-stick shooter coming out only one week after Score Rush, Running Pixels’ Kozu has a high bar to clear. To some extent, Kozu does approach Xona Games’ superb shooter by delivering an enthralling art style and the opportunity to play online. However, outside of these two features, Running Pixel doesn’t break any new ground, resulting in an uninspired title that doesn’t distinguish itself from the field.
Like most of its twin-stick counterparts, Kozu gives you control of a single ship and tasks you with piloting it through waves of enemies. Your craft controls a bit on the floaty side, making it somewhat difficult to split gaps in the sea of enemies. This is especially problematic because enemies spawn a little too quickly and require rapid directional changes in order to survive. Because these demands can’t be met,some deaths leave you feeling cheated by the engine, one of the worst feelings in gaming..
Apart from the control problems, the other major issue that plagues this shmup stems from the fact that there are a couple of very clear ways to succeed, neither of which is much fun. You can either back yourself into a corner and avoid the control problems or move around in circles, dropping bombs along the way. Neither of these options is particularly engaging, resulting in a game that never really grips you and degenerates into just mindlessly blasting at enemies.
It isn’t all problems for Running Pixel’s game though, as it does sport a unique art style. The entire game takes place on a piece of old parchment with Japanese characters that skim across. Similarly, your enemies are amoeba-esque creatures with more Asian characters written inside. While it won’t blow you away with bright colors or a steady 60 FPS, the art style will provide something unique to look at while you tear through enemies.
On top of all this, Kozu has a pretty significant trump card: its inclusion of online play. While this is certainly unique to the indie marketplace, it is hamstrung by a severe lack of gamers who are actually online. If a community somehow grows up around Kozu, multiplayer could be a unique experience, but until then the option to play on Xbox LIVE will be filled with unfulfilled promise.
The inability to play online really hurts Kozu, because without that, it is just another twin stick shooter. Sure, it has a nice art style and sports offline multiplayer, but both of those are a dime a dozen in indie games. The lack of any real distinguishing features makes it difficult to recommend Running Pixel’s latest game not because it’s a bad game, but just because you could spend your 80 MSP on Score Rush and get a far more enjoyable experience.
Writer’s Note: We contacted Running Pixel to set up a time to play multiplayer but as of yet have not been able to set up a time. If we do hear back and we get a chance to actually play the game over XBL we’ll be sure to issue an update with our impressions.