Game: Kraino Origins

Review Key Provided

Platform Played On: Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch Release Date – March 28, 2023

Price – $11.99 / €11.99 / £10.79

Recently I came across a press release of a game that really caught my eye. As I reading through the information provided for Kraino Origins, I was more and more interested and really wanted to play it. Just from the trailer my nostalgia meter was going off the charts and the look of it was right up my alley. Give me a game with dark overtones where I’m the undead and using magic, you got my money. Give me all that along with a scythe and I’m on cloud nine.

Kraino Origins was developed by GameAtomic, which is comprised of a team of one. Angel Dorantes is the Lead Designer, Artist, Lead Programmer and music composer. Angel hasn’t only worked on this game he is also behind Kraino Reanimated, and Super Ninja Meow. If you played the Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia, he was the Designer, Lead Level Designer and he coded the Gnome Mini Game. Is When it comes to Kraino Origins, the one thing Angel had help on was with publishing. The Publishing taken care of by Elden Pixels, which published such other hits such as Cathedral, Always Awakening and Always Legacy.

In Their Words

This eerie adventure takes place in a world inhabited by ghouls, ghosts, skeletons, and all manner of monsters. Kraino was created to aid the forces of evil, but all the dark magic and malice used to create him could not change who Kraino was – a force of good. Now it’s up to Kraino to use all the powers of evil to fight fire with fire. He will journey across the land to destroy the nefarious lords, uncover hidden weapons, and get his revenge on his maker, Dr. Batcula.

Slash your way through swarms of enemies to overcome eight dark and dangerous levels, filled to the brim with well-kept secrets. Unlock a host of powerful weapons and upgrades to wreak havoc on your foes but beware of hazards and treacherous traps along the way in order to make it to the epic final battle.

“We are super excited to bring our much loved retro action platformer, Kraino Origins, to Nintendo Switch,” said Mikael, CEO & Creative Director of publisher Elden Pixels. “Fans of our existing games (Alwa’s Awakening, Alwa’s Legacy and Cathedral) will definitely like this challenging retro title, jam-packed with creepy crawlies, monsters and ghouls.”

I want to go through each level and tell you about it, but first let me get some housekeeping out of the way.

You play as Kraino with three pieces of health and a small amount of magic that can’t be used until you obtain items that require it. You have a scythe as a melee weapon which covers a decent distance, and most enemies can be taken out with one or two hits. You can also use it as defense as it will spin in front of you for a few seconds to block projectiles and also attack enemies above or below you. You can perform a single jump and that itself will become a tool as it’s not just used for jumping up to different sections of the level to continue. You can also jump to higher platforms by jumping on enemies and attacking them, using your scythe like a pogo stick.

There are eight main levels as well as six challenge stages that are not required to continue through the game, but it’ll do you well to do your best to complete each one. Each time you complete a challenge stage you get a token that you can combined with money to upgrade one collectable. There are six collectables and one can be found at each of the first six levels. There’s a merchant that is hidden in each of the six levels that sells you these collectables for gold pieces and once you get tokens after completing a challenge level, you can visit him on the map to use the token and more gold to upgrade them. Each collectable can be upgraded once, and your scythe is not upgradeable. If you miss a collectable, you can replay the level, but you’ll need to fully complete it which includes beating the boss again. The collectables are a fireball, an axe, a bomb that has flames appear when it lands, a bouncing spiked ball, a bone boomerang and a shield. The fireball upgrades to a larger fireball that can go through walls, and I like how you can just throw two upgraded fireballs and then walk and the fireballs would have made contact and killed an enemy, so you’d just see whatever they had dropped. The axe upgrades to an axe that freezes an enemy, the bomb adds distance to the fire that it provides, the spiked ball adds deadly gas to where it lands and bounces all over the stage where you currently are. The bone boomerang upgrades its distance ability, and the shield adds more flames that circle you as well as give you the option to send the whole shield towards an enemy like a weapon. Each collectable takes a certain amount of magic to use so you have to use them sparingly at times. The upgrades are worth necessary, but I really found myself relying on the fireball. Main levels are pretty good about replenishing your magic with drops from enemies, but on challenge levels it’s a different story.

The main levels get you to the next area, have collectables, save points and a boss at the end that you’ll need to defeat to move on. Before you get to a boss there will be a save point as you’ll die a lot and you don’t want to keep having to replay a section of the level over and over again. Challenge levels are shorter, have no save points, but do have magic replenishing drops and some have health drops. The challenge levels are meant to take what you have learned from the main levels and throw them all together with each challenge level increasing in difficulty.

Each main level has three green hidden life pieces and one blue magic piece. These are represented by the green and blue circles on the bottom left of the screen when you select a stage but don’t enter it. If you miss a piece(s), you can replay the level, but you can’t exit until you have fully completed it, which means defeating the end boss again. The pieces are well hidden in walls that are both noticeable and extremely hidden. It’s best to swipe your scythe at all walls as there are also hidden potions that restore life and magic, and sometimes you’ll find a treasure chest with diamonds that count as money. Each enemy in the level that you defeat also has a chance to drop single coins or jewels along with single blue pebbles that restore a small amount of health.

You may be playing an undead character, but you can still die, and you will…a lot. I’m glad there isn’t a death count because I’d be embarrassed to see mine. The one punishment for dying in a level is that you lose a chunk of money. This money can be re-obtained by going back to where you died and retrieving it as it floats in the air, but you run the risk of dying again and losing more money. Sometimes you’re lucky and the area the money is floating in is easily accessible and other times it’s in a place where you just have to accept your fate and that you won’t get that money back.

Before we go through all the levels let’s take a look at the overworld, which is obviously the first thing you see when you start the game. I’ll speak of this as someone who has seen the whole map and not just the first three levels displayed on the map along with an item shop. The look is very much 8-bit with the character movement and stopping points on the map very reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This gives you a good idea of what you’ll be encountering while you go through this game, homages. The world is a very dark looking place with no sunlight or bright colors shown. The music gives off a church organ sound while the beat from Michael Jackson’s Thriller sounds like it’s playing in the background. This adds to the feeling that you’re going to be playing a game that has dark overtones. Let’s get to going through each of the eight levels giving my thoughts on the enemies, music and over all experience.

Level 1 – The Castle

It’s always easy to go back after you’ve completed a game, replay the first level and ask yourself why was this so hard? I’m doing this now, but I also remember this was the first level and I was learning all about the game. I had a very tiny health bar, and I didn’t know enemy patterns or how they attacked. The Castlevania feel is on point with destructible candles and breakable walls that drop items that aid your adventure. This level also teaches you that patience Is everything. Running in swinging like a mad person may work in certain situations, but there are a lot of times in this level where there’s a stationary enemy and you just have to take some time, wait for an opening and then attack. I died a lot on this level because I didn’t understand that waiting is just as important of a tool as your weapons are. There’s one piece of a health upgrade that’s above a ledge and that’s to teach you that you can jump to higher platforms if you attack an enemy from above and pogo up there. Old level tropes are brought in as there are crumbling platforms that you need to quickly move off from and dripping fire that you will have to avoid as you make your way through the level.The enemies in this level which are easy, but get really annoying if you attack too early or late. There’s a ghoul that throws bones at you that is a repeat offender in all the levels and a small monster who turns a little ball and launches themselves at you. Each enemy can be taken out with a few hits. The Ghoul throws two bones at a time, so if you can avoid that then you can take him out quickly, the monster that turns themselves into a ball can just be avoided all together at this time. I really like the music in this level, there’s a good mixture of piano and drums that make it almost worth it to not do anything in the game and have the music just play. Come to think of it, since there’s no game timer you could literally just sit there for hours while you do work elsewhere and enjoy the sounds. This is also the first time you’ll meet the merchant who will sell you magic that you can use to assist you. This level provides you the fireball, which when upgraded is going to be a major tool in your arsenal.

Boss: Slurmp (Ghost)

Slurmp is easy once you know it’s patterns. Patience is key here and you have to know that during certain movements you can only get a few hits off without the being hit in return and losing a section of your health. When Slurmp is floating left to right you can get 3-4 hits off, when the attack turns to going all around the room you can pogo on it’s head and when it disappear and reappears three times, it’s always the third appearance where it actually moves, so stay in the middle of the room to give yourself enough time. This enemy can be taken out without being hit once you know the patterns.

Level 2 – The Sewer

The Sewer level is where you get the same enemies before, but you also get some nice bats that attack from above, which isn’t all that difficult but if you swing your scythe too early or late then you’ll get hit. This level also brings in jumping puzzles in the form of bubbles. You get one jump off a bubble and then it disappears, but shortly after another appears. You’ll encounter a few of these puzzles in the level. You’ll also encounter floating sewer lids and spikes on the ceiling. Timing is everything as at times you’ll get into a section where it goes from jumping bubbles to crumbling platforms right into sewer lids and spikes. Again, this all depends on your level of patience, timing, and the ability to recognize patterns. There are these have fish creatures that jump out and attack you with projectiles and in theory you can just jump over what’s being shot at you and attack, but when you combine that with bats swooping at you your health bar can get some real damage done to it. The merchant in this level sells you the axe, which gets tossed at an angle which is taken directly from Castlevania.

Boss: Grog The Plumber (Frankenstein)

Grog does a lot of jumping, which you have to try to recognize what he’ll be doing after the first jump. He’ll either blow a burp and jump again, shoot projectiles at you or just keep jumping. He throws a wrench like a boomerang and that opens up the ability to attack him from the front, above or behind him depending on where he’s sitting. If he runs at you jump over but don’t sit in the corner he’ll keep attacking you there. The only time you can sit in the corner for an attack is when he is just jumping, he will never get you and you can get a hit or two on him.

Level 3 – The Haunted House

The haunted house actually takes place outside in a very dangerous graveyard and has the best music of the whole game. It’s back to drums and piano, but it’s so damn catchy that I had it in my head all day after I played it. This level introduces flying gargoyles that look tough, but can be taken out with a swipe or two when they get in front of you. The new level obstacle that you see in this level is platform blocks with spikes coming up from there, in a pattern. You’ll have to watch and recognize the best time to on and begin running and at times a quick jump can buy you a little more time that running can. The most annoying enemy only appears a few times in this level, and it’s a green ghost that appears and comes straight at you. It can be taken out with fireballs or your scythe, but you have to time your attack right. There’s an enemy that I still have no idea how to handle. It can be avoided, but there’s an equivalent to a thwomp that is there and there’s one by itself out of the way, and I feel like it can be destroyed or has some purpose. If you know, please let me know. The merchant In this level gives you a bomb that when it lands produces small flames at the point of contact, which is good for stationary enemies.

Boss: Crypt Ghoul (Ghoul)

The Crypt Ghoul is big and bulky which helps attack from a distance, because of its hitbox. You need to be aware of it’s superman attack at there’s a trick. It will float up and down for few seconds, and when it makes it’s weird wheezing the place you’re at is where it will attack. If you’re on the ground it will attack close the ground and if in the air it will attack in the air. I found taking my time and having it attack in the air above me was a good strategy and using block hits it when it flies above you. If you choose to jump over it, you can use the down attack but beware if you try to pogo it. It floats left to right like Slurmp did, so as long as it floats over you, you can get a few hits in. You’ll need to time your jump when it shots it’s projectiles at you going left to right and the bats it throws can be taken out in a single hit. Fireballs are your friends in this battle as it help chip away health from the Crypt Ghoul if it flies to the other side and you miss striking it.

Level 4 – Forest

When you begin the level the music hits you with some strong ninja vibes. There are a lot of new enemies in this area so there’s going to be a learning curve when you begin. The enemies still take one or two hits to defeat, but there are more ranged enemies, like an undead Robin Hood and a darker Pete Piranha that shoots flames at you in bursts. Instead of blocks with spikes, you know how long vines that are platforms that have spikes activate once you jump on them. The harmful burp that you saw with Grog can be now found in mushrooms that walk back and forth. The jumping puzzles get a little more difficult with having to quickly react the first time you encounter the falling leaves, or just remembering where you need to be if you replay the section. The merchant found in this level will sell you a bouncing spiked ball that actually helps out during the fight with Kay Nighn.

Boss: Kay Nighn (Werewolf)

If you didn’t get the joke, the werewolf is named K-9. This battle literally took me over an hour to complete, with each encounter being only a few minutes. There’s a lot of disappearing and reappearing, charging and throwing items. There’s also a spinning move where he turns into Sonic The Hedgehog and bounces the room, and at this time you can throw the bouncing spike ball you purchased. The only bad thing is that it takes a lot of magic, so use is sparingly, be patient and focus on using your scythe.

Level 5 – Volcanic Mountain

When you start this level the music gives you a sense of being a caveman, like if an undead dinosaur popped out it wouldn’t out of place. The enemies seem to be very similar to other enemies you’ve encountered but with fire aspects integrated. This brings jumping puzzles to a higher difficulty with spiked platforms that you have to hit to turn over, then jump on top and move quick enough before they turn over and you die. Fireballs will be your best friend in this level, especially if you’ve upgraded yours. The merchant in this level gives you a bone boomerang, which is the same as the cross in Castlevania.

Boss: Lord Kabocha (Pumpkin)

Fun fact, Kabocha is a type of pumpkin. This boss is a big fan of taking off large chunks of your energy if it hits you. There’s an attack when it has a black stallion run after you leaving a trail of flames and I am never sure if hitting that does any damage. It may just be a reference to the headless horseman. There are some big attack it does that can take off huge amounts of life such as doing sword swipes and sending large flames at you and a section where his head comes off and floats around but hitting it does no damage to him. You’re going to die a lot during this match, so just replay with patience and try to recognize his attacks so you know how to survive them.

Level 6 – Dungeon Lab

Let’s call this level what it really is, an I’m sorry level. This was by far the easiest level I played. Well, it was easy or I was just in the groove and everything worked. There are a few new obstacles introduced into this level. Platforms that move when you step on them, spinning blades, rockets you ride and buttons you jump on that bounce you higher. The merchant in this level sells you a shield where you can take a few more hits before it starts chipping away at your main health bar.

Boss: Shadow Skull (Skull)

I have one word, fireballs. If you have to die so you can start the battle again with a full magic bar then so be it. You can literally take more than ¾ of the bosses health bar with just fireballs. Mine were upgraded, so if you haven’t already done so go upgrade yours before you begin this level. Also, the beginning of this battle is an homage to Mega Man fighting the dragon in Dr. Wilys castle.

Challenge Levels

Go back and complete all the challenge levels, there are six and each will grant a token used to upgrade one of the six items you bought from the merchant in each level. This is important so go do it and you’ll thank me later.

Merchant House

This is the time to visit the merchants house and upgrade all your items after you completed the challenge levels, you’ll need them the next two levels. There’s a Nintendo Entertainment System on his TV that he alludes to, but I don’t know if it does anything. I went back after upgrading all my items and finding all the life and magic pieces and still nothing. Oh, yes, also if you have not found all the magic and health pieces go and do that too as they will be needed. I would have liked this merchant to have more dialogue, he seems like a funny character when you meet him in levels.

Level 7 – Lower Castle

This level isn’t too difficult and the one thing that it introduces is a fun jumping puzzle where you hit hanging lanterns to help elevate you higher. I really like the effect of it raining blood in the castle as this is just a big place of death. You don’t have to worry a merchant in this level but you do have to encounter spider, which I think I forgot to mention earlier. I hate spider in real life and the ones in this game make me angry. They drop from the ceiling and throw spiderwebs at you and for some reason those are the hardest obstacles for me and I have absolutely no idea why.

Boss: Battle all bosses again

Much like in Mega Man, you will be forced to fight all six bosses again, but hopefully with a much larger health and magic bar. These will be split up into two section of three bosses. Slurm and Grog didn’t give me any issues but Kay Nighn was still a pain and the upgraded bouncing spiked ball really helped out during his Sonic The Hedgehog attack. The same goes for Crypt Ghoul, Lord Kabocha and Shadow Skull. Lord Kabocha is the one that gave me the most grief and as long as you got past that with a good amount of health and magic then defeating Shadow Skull with some fireballs is no issue. I do want to point out that the order is mixed and Kay Nighn comes before the Crypt Ghoul unlike in the overworld where it’s reversed.

Level 8 – Higher Castle

Listening to this again, the music really does give Castlevania vibes more than any other song in this game. The last level throws everything at you that you’ve already encountered like a refresher and isn’t too bad to get through. You’ve been through a lot in this game and I want to say this level is just to keep you sharp for the final battle.

Boss: Dr. Batcula

Batcula, Dracula, the Castlevania homages aren’t being hidden. This took me a while to find a pattern and his spinning move really takes a lot of you. I found that the upgraded freezing axes slows him down tremendously, which allows you to attack him and take a good amount of life off his health bar. Fireballs chip away a little at his life, but sticking to the scythe is your best bet.

Final Thoughts

I am In no way shape or form a patient gamer. I don’t always look at strategy and arcade cabinet owners love me because all I do is attack and pump quarters into each machine I play. This is an issue for me and I really have been trying to curb that  by being more patient and waiting. I know not every game is a speed run and in cases like with this game, there isn’t a time limit you have to beat. This is the first game in a while where I have actually taken my time and replayed levels differently because I needed to know why I got further two minutes ago than I did on my current try when I know the enemies that will be there and I know what I have to do. I can chalk 90% of my deaths to just being careless on my part. Seeing attacks or environmental obstacles and just jumping right into them or into their path happened all the time. Even when I thought that I was stuck I would keep playing. My total play time was 11+ hours and I am happy to say I completed every challenge and picked up every health and magic piece. I seriously felt so relieved and proud of myself after beating this game. I would gladly go back and play again, but I don’t think there’s any new game plus content. The levels were well designed and the save points were put where the creator knew that they had put some nasty obstacles you were going to encounter. The music fit perfectly with the game and finding out you can switch between collectables you get on the fly with the shoulder buttons was a big game changer for me. I was forever having to pause, go change weapon and un-pause, which took me out of the game a few times. I had a lot of fun with this game and frankly anything under $15 is a complete steal for this game. I was thinking that this game would be $20, because it seems like a game that needs to be given that price tag. Look for this game on Twitch as I’m sure there will be people speed running it and trying to defeat those challenge levels in stupidly fast times.

By Taylor

Taylor is one half of Media Discord and resides in Orange County, CA. He grew up loving video games, comics and movies. His favorite game is Chrono Trigger and his favorite comic book character is Deadpool.