Kudzu

Review: Kudzu

As a lifelong nerd and gamer for about 30 years, I recall the first time I held my very own Game Boy. I received it as a gift when I was in second grade. It was the full gamer package, complete with a fanny pack, Super Mario Land 2, Wario Land, and Kirby’s Dream Land.

It was an epic time in my gaming life to be sure. I still have all of those items… aside from the handheld itself which died after I left batteries in it unattended for far too long. My love for retro handhelds continues, so when I see a game like Kudzu come around, I immediately want to know more and play more!

Kudzu is bringing those 90s vibes back by creating an authentic Zelda-like experience and crafting a retro world in more ways than one. It plays like an old-school adventure, sounds like one, and feels like one. Because of that your mileage may vary, but for me, it was flat-out awesome!

Cutting Through the Kudzu

In Kudzu, you play as Max, an up-and-coming gardener whose Garden Master has suddenly gone missing! How, why, and where are the questions you’ll have to answer as you trek through the Kudzu plant that is growing uncontrollably throughout the region.

But this is now ordinary greenery, it seems to be developing at an alarming pace and developing strange characteristics. What I loved most about the story is how it unfolded after the first hour or two. I won’t spoil it here, but what I will say is that the basic and familiar opening ideas are truly just the beginning. The story surprised me during multiple points of my playthrough.

HAoTH9a

As you journey through different areas or biomes in Kudzu, you’ll not only encounter new enemies but also a large cast of witty and interesting characters. Ghosts, talking critters, and fellow researchers and adventurers, just to name a few. Some will have small quests or tasks for you to complete, some of which will provide a decent reward, making the old-school backtracking feel worthwhile.

Save the Day, Machete In Hand!

The gameplay itself is where this game truly feels retro. You’ll play the game in a top-down perspective, walking screen to screen as you solve puzzles and defeat enemies. It looks and feels like a 90’s Legend of Zelda title.

Not only does Kudzu draw inspiration from games like that, it plays awfully like one because of the limitations the developers put on themselves while making it. Mad Cat Studios and 8 Bit Legit have also created a physical Game Boy cartridge that will work on original hardware. Because of this, Kudzu has been crafted as a legitimate Game Boy title. This may seem negative, but I think it added to the experience.

fvquRFK

There are subtle touches in games of this era that you won’t get nowadays. Frame drops, enemies flashing as they move, traps or puzzles resetting when you exit and re-enter a room, and more. These are old-school limitations and ones that the developers used to their advantage.

Take the puzzle resets, for example. A character in the game tells you that this happens and encourages you to use it to progress and solve puzzles. Kudzu has many clever moments like that and creates a quirky personality, drawing me in no matter what scenario I find myself in.

Remember, this is an intentionally old-school game and is not here to hold your hand. There are no save states, only save spots. So when you come across one, take advantage. If you push things too far and die after 20 minutes of progress… back you go. Honestly, I did find this frustrating from time to time, but then I leaned back and realized, “damn, I have to play this differently.” This may turn you off, but once I took a deep breath, I was happy to be back on the adventure!

EUp5dik

As you progress, you’ll come across various ways to unlock new items necessary to progress. These are hilariously related to gardening but are also used to dispatch enemies. Machete, rake, boots, gloves; they’ll all be useful in their way and take some time to unlock.

The Look and Feel of the 90’s

I’ve already mentioned how this game is built from the ground up to not only feel like a retro game, but it is one. This is immediately obvious in Kudzu’s presentation. A glance at gameplay or screenshots, and you’ll notice it has that greenish-grey, classic Nintendo Game Boy look.

2Z3o2i9

The music and sound effects also follow suit. It has high-pitched and low-toned tunes that hum and chirp as you enter the game. Each region has its unique setting and looks and sounds different. I noticed this and enjoyed it even more as I revisited some areas to access previously inaccessible chests, for example.

I also can’t say enough about the writing. From the start, it’s clever, witty, funny, and fresh. The devs know what they’re making here; they know that they can go wild with a game like this, and they nailed it!

Verdict

I’ve played dozens of indie games that play and sound like retro games from my childhood. But there’s something about Kudzu that sets it apart. That something is hard to pinpoint because it’s everywhere.

Retro warts and all, this is a wonderfully realized game that will instantly bring you back to simpler times. Bust out that old Game Boy or Switch and head back to the early 90’s, where you can hack and slash your way to being a genuinely awesome 8-bit gardener!

Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: Switch

Kudzu
Review: Kudzu
Summary
Kudzu takes place in a fun, creative world that plays, looks, and sounds like a 90s Game Boy classic. It's a great adventure that will appeal to any retro gamer looking for an authentic old-school experience!
Liked
Incredible retro game presentation
Plays just like 90's Game Boy titles
Fun, witty characters and writing
Lots to do and unlock
Didn't Like
Some retro mechanics can be frustrating from time to time