KHHHAAANNNN!!!! Or at least that was my first thought upon seeing the title "Captain Kaon". While I have no idea about the pronunciation of the titular captain's name, there's definitely that old feeling of nostalgia floating around in Captain Kaon.
Captain Kaon has you taking control of Kaon, a supposedly insubordinate space captain who has been let out of prison/the brig because of understaffing issues. I'll be perfectly honest here, I had no idea what the heck was going on with the backstory until I checked out the Steam store page. As far as I could tell beforehand, something exploded and a bunch of spaceships left Earth. Which was oddly devoid of music. Either way, present day Kaon is apparently the only person left competent enough to pilot a tiny spaceship through narrow corridors in order to retrieve resources necessary to continue operations and fight off invaders/rebels. Thankfully the storyline isn't particularly necessary to enjoy the game.
If I were to try and summarize Captain Kaon in one line, it would probably be: Asteroids meets Joust. Yes, that is indeed correct, two of possibly the most infuriating games you may have played on the NES wrapped into one bundle, and it actually works. You have a ship outfitted with a primary and secondary weapon, and need to traverse caverns and cave while battling the robot/ship/machines of Sigma, the group that supposedly wants you of the planet, but is somewhat incompetent about actually making good on this goal.
You pilot the by turning direction and then applying the thrusters. In other words, you always take off where you're looking, unless you hit the strafe thrusters, which bump you from side to side. Aiming is easy and done with the mouse, pointing where you want to fire and left clicking for primary weapon and right click for secondary weapon. Secondary weapons are limited, but can pack quite a punch. If you run out of stock, you can return to base to slowly regenerate ammo and health, and chances are you'll be doing a lot of this.
Movement and aiming in Captain Kaon, while very aptly giving a retro feel, can be frustrating at times, however the "improvements" to that older style make gameplay much smoother. The strafe boost makes navigation significantly more easy, letting you "slide" through narrow trails without forcing you to put on some weird balancing act to get you through by applying the correct angular velocity, and the developer has added a mouse boundary to the game to prevent your mouse from straying too far. This is really nice, considering half the game is spent not watching where your bullets are heading, but rather watching your ship pinball off walls and floors like they're made of rubber. I can't really tell if this is a bad thing or not.
On the one hand, ramming a wall or touching down on a surface basically bounces you back like the floors are rubber. On the other hand, you don't take collision damage, which is like a bastion of hopes and prayers right there. I would have lost so many ships if I couldn't just ram a wall without concern for my safety. So far this has been well and fine, but my biggest problem of Captain Kaon comes in the form of "fetch quests", as they are. Different missions have different objectives, however any mission that makes you "pick something up" is almost infuriating by how sporadically the tether cable actually decides to work.
Basically, if you fly over an object you should, in theory, automatically pick it up. You can hit ‘S' to drop whatever you're carrying. On its own, not too bad, but the items you're carrying actually affect your flight speed and trajectory. Not only does your package slow you down slightly, if the package is swaying, it will affect the direction of your ship. Once again, not too bad. Except your packages have the durability of a paper tiger. From my experience, knocking the wall about three times with a package will cause the package to explode, making you either have to return to the mission select and consider the mission failed, or head back to hopefully pick up another battery from the dispenser, presuming it actually works in giving you another item.
In order to select a mission, you need to expend resource points. These points can be acquired by completing missions, picking up crates in-level and returning them to a base, or by "exploiting" previously completed areas. The crates will explode at the slightest of contact, so have fun carting those through a level. Exploiting will give you resources, but will also increase the risk of Sigma launching an assault on your main ship. Unlike in individual stages where you have three lives before you have to retry the stage, your ship has a finite amount of health, and failing to defend your ship against the "fist-missile" assault will make your ship lose one bar of health. When the health runs out, that's game over.
While Captain Kaon definitely has its charm, there are a number of problems making it sometimes infuriating to deal with. One mission in particular was exceptionally annoying, because you have to cart this "CPU core" through a level. I cleared the level of enemies, and was carting the core along, except I side dashed too much and the core got too far away from my ship, so the grapple dropped it. Onto one of the bases. Which promptly made the core disappear. Poof, gone, won't respawn, so I had to redo the level.
Occasionally I also had trouble with betting the necessary battery packs to spawn, since you need those to power certain doors and gates, this makes the stage either take an exceptionally long time to complete because you're finangling with the battery spawner. To make it a little worse, enemies will leave corpses when they die. And yes, these can land on the platforms you need to land on to get things to spawn, and they also block shots. You learn very quickly that killing a bunch of enemies near a spawner basically just gives it a shield.
Despite some rather glaring concerns, the developer is constantly updating and patching, so I have no doubt that most of these issues will either be solved or toned down enough to make them not worth noticing. Captain Kaon has a wonderful retro feel to it that brings me back to my NES days of Joust and Asteroids, maybe with a little bit of Tanks thrown in. The graphics mimic the old-school feel without being either grainy or just plain bad, and the music, while a little tedious, also adds to that retro feel. As a whole I rather enjoyed my time with Captain Kaon, with its basic but easy to get into gameplay and its variety of different mission objectives. I'm really excited to see what sort of future patches and products will be released.
Shoot 'Em Up
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Article by Richard