Kero Blaster

A game by Studio Pixel for PC, PS4, Switch, iOS, and Android originally released in 2014.
Kero Blaster is a sidescrolling action game with a focus on platforming and shooting. The game stars a frog custodian who works for C&F Inc., a.k.a. Cat & Frog Incorporated. The president of the company is a cat who keeps a strange black creature in her office as a pet. Meanwhile, the company’s teleporters have been overrun by these same creatures, and it is up to the frog to clear them out.

At the title screen, our froggy hero must blast away at several black creatures, at which point the phone rings and the game proper begins (future sessions simply require the player to answer the phone). Immediately, we find the frog getting yelled at by the company president, who speaks entirely in unintelligible symbols. She sends him out to exterminate the black creatures who are gumming up the works. He leaves the office, passing the pink secretary on the way, who is then seen riding he elevator down with him, along with a black cat in a lab coat.

Each mission is bookended with a dialogue exchange in the elevator. The secretary and the cat speak to one another and to the frog, although the frog himself never speaks. Each level also begins with a visit to the president’s office, where she continues to get fatter and more disgusting in each scene, as her mysterious pet grows in size as well.

The frog has a floaty 2x variable height jump and is able to shoot to the left, right, or up. As long as you are holding the FIRE button, the frog’s aim locks in that direction and he fires continuously, allowing you to shoot while walking backward, or run back and forth while firing upwards at a target above you. As you cause damage to enemies, red numbers appear over their heads showing the number of hit points you have drained from them.

Environmental navigation is very basic in the beginning – certainly more basic than the start of the Pink Hour prologue – with a few platforms to hop onto and ladders to climb. The frog cannot fire his weapon from ladders, but he is free to grab ladders in midair and jump away at will. Later levels feature smaller platforms and bottomless pits, as well as sticky mud, icy floors, and numerous underwater sequences.

While underwater, your movement is considerably slowed, but repeatedly pressing the JUMP button allows you to move upward, and even jump out of the water if you are near the surface. Rising bubbles can also push you upward, although these are sometimes used as an obstacle, potentially pushing you up into enemies or spikes.

At the end of the third level, the frog acquires a jetpack, which allows for a boost assisted jump. Jumping straight up and engaging the jetpack will give you a bit more height, while you retain some midair maneuverability. Jumping and engaging the jetpack while moving left or right allows for a horizontal boost, which is useful for crossing gaps. The jetpack may only be used once in midair, recharging instantly when the frog touches the ground. Because of the two different types of jetpack jumps, the player must be careful when moving quickly to ensure that he uses the correct type of thrust. On rare occasions, players are asked to drop down from a ledge and engage the jetpack in midair to move under an overhang.

Killed enemies sometimes leave behind drops, most frequently in the form of coins. Small coins are worth 1, while moderate enemies occasionally drop large coins worth 10, and some tougher late-game enemies sometimes drop money bags worth 50. Enemies may also drop small hearts which restore one unit of heath, or large hearts which restore three units. On very rare occasions, killed enemies may drop 1UPs. Drops will disappear after a few seconds if uncollected.

The game features a handful of secret passages as well, usually leading to a treasure chest, or sometimes to a 1UP. These passages are hidden behind walls that appear solid, but level designs offer a few clues as to where these passages may be located, and hidden pickups are often visible at the edge of the screen while playing through the level’s main path. Treasure chests contain large amounts of money, spewing coins around the area when they are opened.

It’s worth noting that players are able to farm for coins and other drops by moving back and forth between screens, which causes enemies to respawn. In fact, players are free to backtrack through the entire length of a level if they wish, although they cannot return to previously completed levels. However, treasure chests may only be opened once, so it is not possible to use them to stock up on coins.

Coins are used in a shop system, where the player may spend his hard earned money on weapon upgrades or health supplements. Stores appear once in each level, always around the midpoint, and health-related items may be purchased from the hospital store where the player begins the game after continuing.

Health items include health restoration, at an inexpensive 10 coins per heart, and there is a prohibitively expensive 1UP. You can also purchase a moderately expensive Heart Jar which restores four units of health upon death, not unlike the captured fairies found in latter-day Legend of Zelda games. Lastly, and most importantly, the player may purchase a Heart Boost, which permanently increases the frog’s health by one heart (and restores his health in the process). The Heart Boost item becomes gradually more expensive as your meter grows in length, up to a maximum of eight hearts.

The player must balance the need to purchase health items with the need to increase his offensive capabilities. At the start of the game, the frog comes equipped with a simple short range blaster, and he acquires several new weapons throughout the first half of the game. Each of these weapons may be powered up – for a price – to increase their range and firepower. Surviving the game’s seven challenging levels and multiple boss encounters necessitates an investment in better weaponry.

The default blaster has four power levels, each more expensive than the last, but the fully upgraded blaster is also the most damaging weapon in the game, producing a thick stream of heavy laser fire. Other weapons include the fan, which offers a wider blast range and can be upgraded to a 4-way shot and eventually to a bouncing shot that is very effective indoors. This is also the only weapon that unaffected by underwater use.

The bubble weapon works well on the ground and in the water, but its uses are very specific. Firing the weapon on the ground unleashes a steady stream of bouncing bubbles that hug the floor and drop down off ledges, making a great for taking out enemies on platforms below you. Firing the weapon into the water causes the bubbles to roll across the surface, but firing it underwater gives you as stream of bubbles that float slowly upward, making them useful for indirectly attacking enemies on the ceiling. Upgrades increase the size of the projectiles and their firing rate.

Lastly, there is the fire weapon which works like a flamethrower. It hugs the ground and even moves up slopes, and it is the best weapon for dealing with ice- and snow-based enemies… in fact, some of these frozen baddies are immune to other projectiles. A fully powered flamethrower shoots fire across the screen and sends a pair of fireballs circling around you. The downside, however, is that the weapon does not function at all while underwater.

The player may cycle through each of these weapons at will, making use of whichever weapon best suits the situation. However, unless the player spends time specifically farming for coins, it is not possible to bring all of these weapons to their maximum power level in a single session, so players must determine which weapon types will suit them best on their adventure. Many weapons are capable of absorbing certain enemy projectiles as well, making some of them more useful in terms of defense.

The player starts the game with three lives and unlimited continues. Aside from bottomless pits and the rare insta-death crushing attack, all attacks simply reduce your health by one heart and provide a moderate invincibility period. In the back half of the game, the player even earns a jacket which absorbs one additional hit of damage, and the player may reacquire this helpful winter wear in the store at no cost.

Losing a life means returning to the most recent screen transition, while continuing requires you to play the stage again from the start. Fortunately, the player retains all collected coins when continuing, as well as heart extension upgrades, allowing him to retain some progress. This also offers some balance by making it easier for players who have been repeatedly killed to purchase weapon and health upgrades.

The game is not short on challenge, featuring a wide variety of enemies, as well as several tough boss and miniboss encounters. Interestingly, miniboss creatures must only be destroyed once, and will not reappear even upon losing all of your lives and continuing. Bosses are pattern-based affairs, forcing players to watch for the right opportunity to attack and to take advantage of exposed weak points.

Some notable enemies are pink bats that drop down from the ceiling and emit a sonar call. If you kill the enemy quickly, nothing happens. Otherwise, you will find yourself locked into the area as multiple bats fly in from the left and right sides of the screen to attack you.

Rolling wheels appear in a couple of areas – including the Pink Hour prologue – and will kill you instantly if they roll over you. However, they also crush enemies, and you can jump on them safely once they have stopped moving. There are also some very Mario Bros.-like crabs that get angry and move faster after you shoot them. And occasionally you will find enemies standing on top of bombs that explode when destroyed, sending waves of fire across the floor.

The game was developed by Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya, the man behind Cave Story. The game is very similar to Cave Story in terms of environmental navigation, but this is a straightforward linear action game as opposed to an open world action adventure. The game also features the developer’s trademark character designs and other elements, such as hit points appearing over enemies’ heads, a variety of upgradeable weaponry, and an unusual sense of humor.

Kero Blaster was developed by Studio Pixel, which is made up of Daisuke Amaya, a.k.a. “Pixel”, who created the character designs, programming, graphics, and art. Additional support was provided by Kiyoko Kawanaka for level design, direction, and overall story… all of which changed substantially since the game was originally announced a year prior as Gero Blaster.

Amaya is most known as the creator of Cave Story, which he developed on his own over the span of five years. The game was released in Japan as a freeware title, was subsequently translated into English by a fan, and was later enhanced for a premium release by Nicalis. Amaya also developed Ikachan, which was also originally released as freeware and later offered as a premium downloadable title, also by Nicalis.

The game was published by Playism / Active Gaming Media, which also published Pink Hour, Pink Heaven, Gunhound EX, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, Hakoniwa Explorer Plus, and Touhou Luna Nights, Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, Mighty Goose, some versions of La-Mulana, and La-Mulana 2.
A month prior to the release of Kero Blaster, the developer released a prologue to the game, acting as a teaser of sorts, called Pink Hour. This free download stars the pink office secretary who has lost an important document, and she uses one of the company teleporters to head out into the enemy-filled world to retrieve it and present it to the company president. Following the release of Kero Blaster, the studio released a sequel to the game, entitled Pink Heaven where the pink office lady returns to rescue the blue shopkeeper.