November 13, 2015 10:30 AM | John Bridgman
Getting noticed on Kickstarter is not as easy as it once was. The numerous factors contributing to this effect have been discussed and picked apart time and time again. Resources like the Square Enix Collective are proving to be more helpful than ever, as games like Pankapu: The Dreamkeeper, a 2D action platformer from Too Kind Studio, have gone through the Collective's approval process, and currently the crowdfunding campaign is doing fairly well.
The alpha demo shows off three different work in progress levels of the game, each with a different theme. Each varied and colourful, even the dark underground level has some interesting visuals to it. The game appears to have a very charming aesthetic, and it is pulled together with a delightful ambient soundtrack. The character animations are smooth and distinct, allowing you to easily anticipate an enemy's attack and adjust your defense or attack plans accordingly.
Combat in the demo is pretty fun as well, as it showcases the game's core mechanic of swapping Pankapu's Aegis (essentially class) in real time in accordance to the necessary action or platforming. In the demo you have access to a warrior mode with a sword and shield for melee combat, and a double-jumping archer. Interestingly, they also manage to show off that the two modes featured are more than simply a combat and a platforming mode, as there are enemies which require ranged attacks and vice-versa. In fact, I found it very satisfying to swap between the two in the middle of combat.
The platforming itself is nothing exceptional, though there is a fair bit of exploration and a few collectibles featured in the demo build. Thanks to the nature of the backgrounds and the clarity of the art assets, the ability to discern a platform from a background object was rarely a problem. There's still some polish to be done on the platform detection, but this is an alpha build and I think they're well on their way to tightening that up.
The controls are only indicated in the build showing a gamepad, which is unfortunate, because the game handles fairly well using a keyboard, once you discover what the keys are for which action. Quickly you'll get the hang of it though, and even the act of swapping Aegis in real-time while continuing your platforming or combat is quick and effortless.
There is unfortunately no boss encounter in the demo, which would've been an opportunity to showcase more of the combat in action. There are special attacks for each Aegis, but the basic enemies you encounter never really seem to require them, and that's a bit of a letdown, but I'm sure that future builds will make for more interesting encounters. The basic combat itself is fun, though not particularly challenging. A couple enemies take a bit of observation to understand their patterns and weaknesses, so there's definitely potential shown off.
The story itself is presented as a story being told to Djaha'Rell, a child who is piecing together some tragic events of his youngest days. The player, by going through the story of Pankapu, will put together his orgin and help unravel the mystery of the torment and trauma that the child goes through. It's an interesting framing device for a story, and the game presents this through vignettes not unlike a picture book, with a comforting narration to accompany it.
Pankapu: The Dreamkeeper looks like it could shape up to be a delightful action platformer. Closing in on 75% of its goal, with roughly two weeks remaining in the campaign at time of writing, I think that this is a title worth keeping your eye on if you like colourful action platforming titles. There's still some polish needed for the game, but the high level of presentation already on display shows that the development team is dedicated to making a solid title, and I'm eager to see where this project goes from this early build. The Kickstarter page features a link to the playable Alpha demo so you can see for yourself what you think of it before making any decisions, and I highly recommend you give it a try.