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Video Game / KUNAI

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"You are a NINJA TABLET. ‘Nuff said."

It's the future, and humans are all but completely wiped out. These days, society is mostly made up of robots instead, and a civil war's broken out between the megalomaniacal AI, Lemonkus, and the resistance fighters hoping to keep it from taking over what's left. It's a losing battle for the freedom fighters, and all seems lost until one tablet-faced robot named TBY-1143 comes to life in a mysterious lab...

Nicknamed Tabby, the robot's a quirky little fella with a wicked fighting spirit, tearing through Lemonkus's forces with insane speed and style. As Tabby expands their arsenal and explores the mechanical world around them, it'll all fall on one robot to bring the fight to Lemonkus and save everyone left from extinction.

KUNAI is a Metroidvania game by Dutch indie studio TurtleBlaze, released in early 2020 for PC and Nintendo Switch by The Arcade Crew. Much of the gameplay focuses on Tabby's weapons and movement, with a fast-paced vibe, a pixel art style making the most of a limited color palette, and most importantly, a robot ninja with grappling hooks.

This game contains examples of:

  • Advancing Boss of Doom: The fight against the Popo in Robopolis is more or less an extended platforming sequence.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Perhaps not exclusively — folks like Tabby, the Chief and Earl seem to be perfectly fine as far as morals go — but Lemonkus serves as an example of how one's programming in the game's 'verse could go spectacularly wrong.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: A fair chunk of the collectible bonuses in the game are H.A.T.S., which are precisely what they sound like — alternate pieces of headgear for Tabby.
  • Boss Subtitles: Each major foe you face gets this treatment, as well as every weapon and ability Tabby earns throughout the game, with one exception: when you grab Lemonkus's scythe for your own use during the final fight.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Blue monitor? Good guy. Red monitor? Kill it.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Everything you kill explodes spectacularly, with lots of fire and flying debris.
  • Equipment Upgrade: Every weapon in Tabby's arsenal can be upgraded, from pure damage boosts for your sword all the way up to charged missile barrages for the rocket launcher.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Chief never gets a given name, pretty much exclusively just being referred to as "Chief."
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Less "pistol" and more "farming tool," but the eponymous kunai Tabby wields serve this purpose.
  • Great Escape: Tabby gets thrown in jail by the cops in Robopolis. You temporarily lose all of your gear, with nothing but a single new ability — the dash — to make your way out.
  • Guns Akimbo: The twin SMGs, natch. The pair work together as a single weapon and take up just one spot in Tabby's weapon switch as well.
  • Heart Container: Upgrades for Tabby's health are peppered throughout nooks and crannies in most of the game's levels. Collecting four of them expands your bar by a short segment.
  • Interface Screw: The penultimate sequence goes hard on the glitch effects. To initiate the last level of the game before fighting Lemonkus, Tabby has to purchase an unusual upgrade from the Wi-Fi hotspot on the moon, which manifests as a virus that pulls the player into a set of fights within Tabby's memory.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Some enemies you encounter later on in the game, including the blindfolded Samuraibots and the bulky, blade-wielding fellas in the mines, are all but immune to Tabby's sword, requiring either judicious timing with the focus ability or heavy firepower from the SMGs or the rocket launcher.
  • Metroidvania: Aside from the two airship levels and the final sequence in space against Lemonkus, the entire game is set in an interconnected set of levels.
  • Money Sink: While potent, upgrading Tabby's sword from the Blacksmith in the Abandoned Subnet is significantly more expensive than comparable boosts to your other items, with prices in the thousand-coin range rather than several hundred.
  • Recurring Traveler: Somehow Tabby can't get far without the Resistance's resident IT robot, Earl, showing up alongside the levels' Wi-Fi routers/shops. In a way, he's the game's closest equivalent to an Intrepid Merchant.
  • Robot Soldier: A fair chunk of the enemies you fight are these, purpose-built for the war by Lemonkus.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: While the Lemonkus fight is not one of these, it does end this way, with Tabby landing after getting in one last cut with the AI's own scythe before it explodes. Considering the fight beforehand, it's a cathartic sight indeed.
  • Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness: The game is a 4, keeping the Metroidvania setup through and through.
  • Stock Ninja Weaponry: As one could reliably expect from the title, Tabby's arsenal is made up of a mix of these and more modern implements.
    • The first things players get their hands on, naturally, are a katana and a pair of kunai. The latter are less weapons on their own and more for traversal purposes, though creative players can still make clever use of them in aerial combat.
    • Three guesses for what Tabby scores from the Shuriken Temple, and the first two don't count. You can use them to stun enemies — opening them up to other attacks — or to activate switches in several of the game's levels.
  • Time Trial: Just one, but it's a doozy: the Cult of Skebin's challenge, accessible toward the end of the game near Robopolis. Players have to use everything in Tabby's arsenal to navigate the level in a mere 25 second window. Your reward for doing so? A hood for Tabby's cloak that makes them look like a scaled-down version of Lemonkus, the final boss!
  • Utility Weapon: A common theme of the weapons in Kunai is serving purposes both in and out of combat.
    • The twin SMGs can keep Tabby airborne like a jetpack if the player aims them downward while traveling across long gaps.
    • Rocket jumping is an unlockable perk for the rocket launcher, granting an insane jump height compared to what you're capable of without it.
    • In the right context, Tabby's ability to focus and rapidly kill enemies with the sword can be used to hop across rooms nearly instantaneously. Speedruns of the Cult of Skebin room use this to great effect.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Tabby faces off against an airship captain twice after said captain sends all his flunkies after you, and both times he goes down in a single hit.