You know, I’m rather enjoying the continued influx of smaller titles onto the Nintendo Switch. Sure, people love to complain about the quality of the store dipping and how hard it is to find good titles, but that’s partially on Nintendo for not updating the eShop since launch. Can you believe there still isn’t any background music?? Anyways, it’s a good environment for people to go beyond the storefronts of itch.io and Steam and put indies in the hands and faces of would-be customers who otherwise wouldn’t find them. Today is my third title from EastAsiaSoft in as many days, and it was originally created by solo dev casiopea, and it’s pretty much a delight. Inspired heavily by both Japanese shmups and animation of the last generation, this is Task Force Kampas.
With Task Force Kampas, the name of the game is vertical shooter, and there’s very little else to glean from it. There’s no special powerup gun that clears the screen, no highly involved plotline that makes you question the philosophy of war and humanism in the midst of trans dimensional suffering or anything crazy like that. You merely get put in the ship of one of three colorful characters (with more to unlock) and get turned loose on a slightly randomised shooter, throwing you through wave after wave of oddball enemies until you reach bosses (both mini and regular sized). Defeating the bosses gives you a choice of upgrades moving onto the next wave (better firepower, more speed, etc.) and then you reset and get ready to do it all again. There is technically an “end” to the game, but the developer encourages you to go beyond that in a real arcade sense, pushing until the game freaks out and crashes or whatever. There’s not a specific end in sight, just a signpost “finish” and then you can opt to carry on.
Very recently, we took another look at a randomized shmup, and the takeaway from the overall experience was that the procedural generation idea doesn’t really fit in with bullet hell games by nature. For whatever reason, Task Force Kampas understands that there’s an acceptable level of randomness that keeps the game from getting unfair. For example, the number of special “collectable” asteroids that appear is case by case. If you see a golden space rock, you want to blow it up and save the adorable little T-Rex statue inside. There isn’t a set number that appears from stage to stage, which feels like a good compromise to keeping the game under wraps. Additionally, as enemies and mob frequency increase, the chaos isn’t completely unbridled. There’s almost a set monster pool that the game will pull from for each stage, which keeps you within the same general idea of what you’re encountering while still adding some madness to it. The balance is there, and that’s something that I think is really important. Task Force Kampas feels incredibly balanced, like everything was weighed out before setting sail, enabling players to enjoy some mystery without being totally out of depth from the drop.
The things that help make Task Force Kampas a more formidable and honestly enjoyable shmup than most are a trifold attack of mechanics, polish and presentation. Firstly, I love the risk and reward system that comes with the shields of the game. Unlike most bullet hell games, getting hit once doesn’t mean the end of your life, but it also doesn’t mean that you’re invincible forever. You have a shield meter that takes one or two hits depending on where it is, and, believe it or not, it recharges at the cost of you deciding not to shoot. This is an inherently difficult decision to make during a great raid, and it almost feels like trying to convince yourself to breathe in water. You want to keep that fire button mashed for the duration, but letting off the gas is the only way to bring back your shield and live to fight another day if things go south. It’s actually great practice if you want to get better at other danmakus, as you often need to focus more on navigation and less on shooting in order to survive quite a few other famous and far less forgiving titles, so consider Task Force Kampas a good setting with positive reinforcement for learning a new skill set.
Additionally, the game honestly looks great. While the graphics tend to be a little cartoonish and pixel based, the way that they come across feels very intentional and clean. There’s a clear divide between the more grotesque beings like eyeballs that wink in and out of view versus the bizarre, angular spaceships that gradually fill your screen with havoc and firepower. That’s also in contrast to the massive bosses that you encounter, each of which contains their own unique fire pattern that needs to be learned and followed in order to survive. I don’t know why we all consider the Crab to be a formidable foe regardless of what game you play, but that giant space Crab is nothing to sneeze at and completely rocked my world several times over. There’s no shame in admitting you got your ass handed to you by a crustacean, even if it wasn’t on terrestrial battlegrounds. Besides the foes, the selection of ships are all colorful and different, offering no real bonus in attack or dodge, just some better avatars and slightly separate approaches to the run for each and every pilot. It’s got versatility and variety without getting meta and forcing you to rethink the way that you play everytime you suit up.
Lastly, it’s got the right tone throughout. Task Force Kampas encourages you to throw on that CRT filter to really bring back the oldschool ideology, and it works well in conjunction with the huge screenshake and flaring danger warnings when you take hits. But casiopea made sure that retro inspiration and graphics didn’t coincide with old, janky controls or outdated hit boxes. Top to bottom, Task Force Kampas is a tight, well oiled machine that likes to get you safe and offguard in the mentality that it might be silly, easy or basically not a big deal. The first wave of asteroids and collectable dinosaurs might give you the wrong impression, and it only takes one ballistic missile hitting your hull to set you straight. It’s a damn fun and fine ride all the way through the different levels, and there’s still more for me to unlock because I frankly don’t have the chops to make it as often as I’d like. But hey, the Switch is the perfect danmaku machine, and Task Force Kampas is a great addition to the arsenal. Suit up, strap in and have a blast.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe to our mailing list
Get the latest game reviews, news, features, and more straight to your inbox
Thank you for subscribing to Bonus Stage.
Something went wrong.
Task Force Kampas Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
It’s a short, straight and surefire journey that’s going to blow your head to the back of this auditorium.