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Kaikan – Review

Shooting Game Builder is a cheap and powerful game making engine and solo developer Zackichi used it to create Kaikan, a fast and frenetic shoot em up that plays smooth like butter and provides a decent challenge. You’ll need to care about high scores to get the most longevity out of it but this game is a cheap and very cheerful shmup gem for fans of the genres 2D 90s heyday.

Choosing you ship is crucial to how you’ll tackle your run.

Whilst there are only five stages and they can be zoomed through quite quickly, Kaikan has six different ships to choose from and they each have very different playstyles. From homing attacks to side fire blazes to widespread shots to short narrow smoke attacks, each ship asks you to position yourself differently and act accordingly. You can press and hold the attack button most of the time for constant fire and any enemies you kill will leave behind collectable tokens. By flying over them whilst shooting you’ll score points but the trick here is to let go of shooting to trigger the auto suction of them into your ship. This not only increases your score but it starts to charge your bomb gauge. Doing this not only charges up a special attack (which if armed doubles as a single hit shield too), but it increases your item rank. This means when an enemy drops a special item, it’ll be more powerful such as a rare extra life if you reach the higher ranks. This item rank drops back to the lowest rank as soon as you miss any tokens as they float off the screen but its well worth being invested in keeping the streak going for both your score and your health.

There is always a lot going on at one time but I could always tell what fire was mine and what wasn’t.

That is a lot of interconnected gameplay elements but they balance fantastically well. Enemies fly in at a breakneck speed and in swarms so you you need to time when to let go of fire to collect the tokens with good precision. Its a risk vs reward strategy and you can totally ignore if but doing so will mean you won’t experience the high score thrill and gamble Kaikan can offer. Enemy attacks are constant and telegraphed so repetition and pattern recognition gets you a long way in the game.

Boss battles are another interesting twist on the same token mechanics. You can collect tokens like usual and if you unlock your bomb by filling the bomb gauge you can trigger that attack too. Any enemy fire on screen at the time turns to higher paying out tokens alongside any enemies you hit. These tokens don’t fill your bomb gauge back up again, they fill a separate meter you take into boss battles. This meter acts like a bonus score timer for killing the first four bosses. It also affects how the boss evolves as you destroy different parts of it too meaning you’ll get slightly different variations on the bosses in different playthroughs which is nice. Use a bomb on a boss and this goes towards a boss medal which does the same thing but for the final boss only. Its more complicated to write down than it is so see in action but basically bombs equal higher scores and more points potential when killing bosses.

The sideways flame attack takes a while to get used to and at times you won’t see much else but the enemy fire in the blaze!

With fluid controls, a fantastic rock soundtrack with plenty of 80s hair riff rock to enjoy (a new score from the freeware version of Kaikan released in 2021) and graphics that can keep up with everything going on – the technical side of the game holds up a treat. All of this for just over £3 is a steal. Whilst I would like to have seen some online leaderboards now its on Steam, what’s here is great and shows just what Shooting Game Maker can do. Clever and powerful, well done Zackichi. I hope their other games are ported to Steam for paid releases too.

Final Thoughts
Fluid, fast and with some clever and challenging gameplay elements. A well thought out solo dev gem.
Each ship plays slightly differently, giving longevity.
Fast, fluid and no slowdown even when the screen is very full.
Multiple layers of things to tackle if you want to trouble the high scores.
Great rock soundtrack.
5 stages come and go quickly.
Sometimes all you can see if your own firepower, enemy shots and enemy explosion smoke because so much is blowing up all the time. You don't get to see what's coming, its already exploding!
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