Captain Kaon is a retro inspired twin-stick gravity shooter, developed by Engage Pixel as their first game on steam. Stated as being inspired by the classics of 1980, this game is a combination of space ship flyer that requires you to control its axis and thrust, akin to flash games of helicopter landing simulators, and twin stick shooting goodness. Taking on an Amiga-style pixel art, Kaon looks like a love letter to days past.
The game starts off with a short intro, showing images of Earth, ships and text at the bottom describing the history. Earth has become overcrowded, sending out ships to inhabit other worlds in the Regulus sector of space. These planets were soon attacked by an alien force, forcing back the earth colonies. Earth has sent out its best ships to defend the colonies, leaving behind little to defend their home. You, Captain Kaon, are put in control of one of the remaining vessels to take back and defend your home. From Ceres, onto Mars, you will have to obtain more and more fuel, pushing back any resistance.
Tasked with defence, you will be sent onto the planet to stop the Ceres revolts who refuse to send fuel to the fleet. Manoeuvring asteroids, large complexes and even defending your flag ship, you must make sure that Earth and its fleet survive. The story mode is long, as you need to take back several sectors, but it is hard to put a time on the game as you are allowed to auto-resolve missions if you have the resources.
Captain Kaon plays like many an old arcade game or flash title, focusing heavily on the tilt/thrust action of controlling a 2d ship whilst fighting back against gravity. Thankfully hitting the environment doesn’t kill or damage you like the older games did. Using W for thrust, you use A or D to tilt your ship around, Q or E to do a dash left or right and hold down your left click for primary weapon fire or right click for rockets and bombs.
The gameplay itself is rather straightforward, and if you were born in the 80s or 90s you should feel rather accustomed to it. This is also to the games detriment, as the controls feel outdated, clunky and otherwise unrefined. It can feel hard to control at times, whereas others you can just dash around the map with ease and speed. You will unlock new ships and weapons as you go along, but the core of the gameplay stays the same from mission 1 onwards.
As you complete missions you will secure sectors of the planet, giving you resources. These can be spent to auto-resolve future missions as well as being needed to even partake in later ones. You can force the previous completed sectors to give you more resources, but this is met with resistance from the miners, resulting in defence missions.
Overall thoughts and feelings
Straight off from the first track, be it the menu or intro, the soundtrack is grating and terrible to listen to. While it is trying to replicate the old-style tunes, doing an ok job at it, the synthetic sounds and overall production value is far too low. There is a weird static effect to some of the tracks higher notes, while the rest are too dull and boring to listen to. There are also times where laser shots or high pitched screeches are used, which sound like gameplay or gunfire but are a part of the music. The music is simply too caustic and random, leading to it becoming a harsh attack of sounds rather than an accompanying soundtrack.
Captain Kaon seems to have an identity crisis, from the comic book cover art to the harsh transition to anime style faces. The game cannot decide on a consistent art style, it is too jarring and comes off as bad marketing when it looks so different from each viewpoint. Moving from menu, to world map to levels, the shift in design is too harsh, breaking almost all immersion in the world. While some of the art looks great, combining it with 3 different art styles as well as different artistic skill, the whole presentation looks slapdash.
At the current price of £4.99, Captain Kaon may look enticing, with screenshots of its levels and a trailer solely focused on gameplay. It does well to hide the anime faces, cartoon cover art and level design art clashes, but are almost immediately present on game start-up. It has some good value for a few hours of gameplay, but you should really look into it before a purchase, as the screenshots on offer do pretty much display the extent of its gameplay. Thankfully the developer does seem invested, with 13 updates since launch, looking at framerates, difficulty, bugs and improvements.
Overall Captain Kaon gets a 4/10, it replicates the old-style gameplay in a passable manner, but it sorely needs an upgrade and polish to even stand a chance against modern games. The soundtrack is painful to listen to on top of the random art decisions taken. While it’s gameplay does have moments of nostalgia, the overall presentation and design feels too rushed and incomplete. Fans of the old-school 2D games might find some enjoyment here, but will be put off by the rough edges and lack of quality.