A game by TurtleBlaze for PC and Switch, originally released in 2020.
Kunai is an open world metroidvania with a focus on grappling. You take on the role of a robotic tablet with a serial number of TBY-1134… better known to his friends as Tabby. Set in a world where human life has been almost completely eradicated by the evil AI Lemonkus, robots now rule the Earth. You must explore the ruined planet, taking on the minions of Lemonkus as you slowly expand your arsenal of weapons and equipment, allowing you to reach new areas, per genre conventions.

The opening cinematic shows robotic marauders – with CRT screens for heads – fighting across the landscape and eventually making their way to an underground complex. Within this complex is some kind of laboratory containing a tube filled with red liquid, and suspended in the liquid is Tabby… the one they have been looking for. But while they try to free him, a security robot shows up and attacks, killing most of them as it rampages through the room. You take control of Tabby and burst out of the tube, and the game begins.

Tabby has a floaty 3x variable jump and is able to run quickly and duck. By exploring the nearby rooms, he discovers a red katana sticking out of the body of a dead robot, and this becomes his primary weapon. The weapon has no combo, but Tabby slashes the sword in any of four directions as quickly as you can press the button – stepping forward with each strike to the left or right – and his facial expressions become more intense with continuous attacks. In fact, most of Tabby’s personality is conveyed with fun expressions as he encounters danger, stares in awe at collectibles, or sticks his tongue out when concentrating on grappling, and this is further emphasized by illustrations that pop up each time he acquires a new item.

Using the sword, Tabby takes on a few basic enemies and also destroy crates, and doing so reveals currency that can later be spent on upgrades. More importantly, the sword draws energy when attacking foes, which in turn recharges Tabby’s battery, so attacking enemies allows his to restore his health. This becomes more important later in the game when the player earns projectile weapons that allow him to defeat enemies at a distance but without the added benefit of health restoration.

By thoroughly exploring the environment, the player discovers treasure chests, often hidden behind false walls or in hard-to-reach areas. Some of these chests contain heart pieces, and per Zelda tradition, finding four of them grants another unit of health. Unfortunately, most of these chests contain hats that are purely cosmetic in nature, which is a bit disappointing when you fight hard to get to a hidden area only to find a reward that has no gameplay impact. Annoyingly, hats auto-equip when you find them, so you’ll need to go into the menu each time to take them off or switch back to your favorite.

Early into his adventure, Tabby discovers a pair of kunai that allow him to grapple at upward angles to the left or right, sticking to most surfaces except for metal. Grappling is fast and responsive, allowing the player to quickly grapple, retract, and grapple again in order to move across ceilings, swing around corners, and pull himself up vertical surfaces. By alternating between left and right grapples, the player can quickly pull himself up vertical shafts, and he can wall slide and wall jump.

The game has a somewhat unique take on its shop system by offering an online shop that can only be accessed when Tabby’s Wi-Fi signal is strong enough. An indicator at the top of the screen shows the signal strength, although most of these appear in towns or near friendly NPC’s, so it’s not altogether different from games that offer traditional shops. Within the shop interface, the player may purchase upgrades for any of the items he has discovered to that point, including his katana, kunai, and various projectile weapons. This includes a currency magnet (although the magnet isn’t terribly strong), slow health regeneration, increased health from killing enemies, and the ability to slingshot yourself upward by grappling two points at once.

You eventually discover shuriken that allow you to hit enemies from a distance to stun them momentarily, and they can also be used to flip switches and open doors. Next is a pair of submachine guns that deliver moderate damage and can also be fired downward to cross gaps. Finally, the player encounters a rocket launcher that fires incredibly powerful shots and can be used to break rocks and reach new areas. All of these weapons have ammo that recharges when not being used, and the player can upgrade these weapons to deal additional damage, carry more ammo, or fire more projectiles per shot, and the player may cycle through these weapons as needed to overcome various challenges.

As mentioned, only Tabby’s katana can restore health by attacking enemies, so swordplay still comes in handy even once more powerful weapons are unlocked. In addition, the player may purchase more powerful katana strikes and a charged katana attack that deals fast damage to multiple nearby enemies in succession, and the katana also has secondary uses like being able to slice bullets out of the sky or deflect rockets back at the enemy who fired them. It’s even possible to slash downward to bounce off bullets and reach new areas.

There’s a fair amount of variety to the enemies over the length of the game, but new enemy types are introduced slowly, and enemies respawn each time you leave an area and return. Some basic enemies merely patrol back and forth while others become alert when you get near them and begin attacking furiously or giving chase. More complex foes have the ability to fly and dive bomb, some can only be damaged from certain directions, and some explode a few seconds after being attacked.

There are also several boss encounters, and these are a tougher since they require you to use all of the tools at your disposal to defeat them. These are multi-phase affairs with bosses generally changing behaviors and requiring different tactics from the player with each phase, including some deft use of the kunai for grappling. Annoyingly, there is a boss around the game’s midpoint that has five attack phases, with the final phase resulting in instant death if you make a mistake, requiring you to play the entire battle again from the start.

The world is quite large and there is no fast travel system, so backtracking means covering long distances on foot, and it's possible to wander quite a distance along one route before discovering that you’ve gone the wrong way and must retrace your steps. There are some switch-and-door puzzles that require the player to jump through so many gameplay hoops that even Lara Croft might find them unreasonable. Save points fully restore the player’s health, but they are spread out quite far, so the player must retread a lot of ground if he is killed. Fortunately, overall progress is not lost upon death, so the player retains his currency and map progress.

Grappling occasionally gets pretty intense, with the player required to make multiple rapid grapples in succession, sometimes grappling between walls of spikes or over flowing lava... which fortunately are not insta-death traps, but bottomless pits are. There's even a few Super Mario Bros. 3-style airship sequence where the environment scrolls automatically, requiring the player to make quick jumps, attacks, and grapples without getting pinned and scrolled off the screen for an insta-death kill.

Aesthetically, the game offers low-color environments with the palette and some of the tileset changing with each new area. Enemy designs are generally bold, animations are smooth, and explosions are especially intense, and the player character is particularly charming, especially given his wide array of facial expressions. Additionally, cutscenes are incredibly stylish and help to add to the game’s overall charm while retaining a lighthearted feel that is further emphasized by a bit of humorous dialogue.

Kunai was developed by TurtleBlaze, a 3-person studio based in The Netherlands, with programming by Benjamin de Jager, art by Richard Lems, and production by Bram Stege.

The game was published by The Arcade Crew, which previously published Blazing Chrome and Dark Devotion.