Review – Kya: Dark Lineage

Kya: Dark Lineage
Developed by Eden Studios
Published by Atari
Released 11.18.03

Evil vegetable woman
Fear my banana horn.

Kya: Dark Lineage is usually compared to Beyond Good and Evil, most likely because they are both action platformers with female leads. The similarities just about end there, since BGE is damn close to the epitome of the genre, while Kya is more a stock, run of the mill, average game. Of course I played to the end so there had to have been something there that made me play it.

The game starts off with you and your brother getting sucked into an alternate dimension via your father’s basement laboratory. You arrive among a few anthropomorphized dog like creatures who are all running away from some anthropomorphized wolf like creatures. This opening sequence introduces most aspects of the game, as it includes fighting, running, jumping, problem solving, and sneaking. Once you arrive back at the village, you meet with the elder who informs you that Brazul (cookie cutter bad guy) is turning all of the dogs (Nativs) into wolves (Wolfen). You quickly gain the sacred Nativ abilities of opening shell elevators (teleporting) and exorcising wolfen (turning them back into Nativs).

At this point you prepare to wait several hours before any character speaks again. The plot here is really thin. The game goes most of its duration without any explicit reference to the plot. There are characters who do things that are completely surprising or would be, if the player had any expectations for how the characters should act. In other words, the characters basically stand around near Kya while she runs through town to buy things before returning to the various other areas of the game, not to be seen or thought of until the next time she needs to buy something and run past them. There is some semblance of a plot at the very beginning and the very end, but it is so clich├ęd and poorly developed that it can be almost completely ignored.

Wolves have bad hearing
Shhh, I’m sneaking.

The process of turning wolfen into Nativs basically involves beating the hell out of them until they are disabled and then exorcising them. Exorcisms uses mana, and, along with refilling Kya’s health at predetermined locations, is among the only actions that does so. There are a total of approximately 250 wolfen in the game, 200+ of which are necessary to complete the game (when you exorcise wolfen the Nativs return to the village, shops need a certain number of Nativs to have been exorcised in order to open). In a fifteen hour game, 250 total enemies is not a ton, but it does mean that fighting makes up a significant amount of the action.

Unfortunately the fighting is pretty boring. At first it seems fun, since you can link combos, and exorcising the wolfen is satisfying, since you can picture the village being rebuilt. Fact is, there are only really two types of enemies (there is a third, but there are only about four in the game). The developers tried to add some spice by giving some weapons, but once you are close enough to attack, the guns have no real effect, and clubs do not do enough damage to matter. Bosses offer some variety, but these are few and far between, they fight in simple patterns, and are never too challenging. Fortunately most of the game focuses on simply getting from place to place, but the long series of battles towards the end is a trial for any gamer’s patience.

One aspect of the game that is fairly innovative and fun is that you travel in a variety of different ways. Kya can not fly, but the world she patrols is filled of air currents strong enough to push her along and drops long enough to give the sensation of sky diving. This dynamic makes for some of the most riveting and challenging sequences in the game. Kya floats from island to island, falls down almost never ending ducts, and uses large fans to help her navigate sometimes treacherous terrain. As the novelty wears off, even this mechanic becomes a little boring, particularly once the player realizes how simple it is. All in all it is a welcome addition though, especially considering the sensation of speed is well executed. Also she has a snowboard-like apparatus which comes into play on a few occasions. I experienced a similar curve with this as I did with the sky diving. Fun at first, but ultimately too simple to make a fuss over.

Hang moss, dude
Extreme tree surfing, brought to you by Mountain Dew

The graphics and sound are good but not great. The graphics are colorful enough to remind you that you are in a fantasy world, and some of the wind effects created by the floating/falling mechanic can be pretty, but nothing too special. The sound is functional, if unimpressive. Frequently Kya will need to sneak up on a wolfen so he will not be able to alert his compatriots. Once he suspects he hears something you can hear him spring to attention. Again, the sound of wind rushing past completes the effect.

The meat and potatoes of this game really are the platforming elements. Kya possesses most of the moves we have come to expect from a typical hero (although the double jump is conspicuously absent). She can climb walls, bounce between walls, shuffle along ledges, etc. Most of the progression is simply a matter of jumping from platform to platform until Kya needs to battle a small band of wolfen. She carries a boomerang which gains abilities over the course of the game (very few involve actual fighting) and is used mostly to flip switches and the like. Nothing terrific, but the platforming does require the good timing and quick buttonwork that all games of this ilk do.

The game is good, but just not ambitious enough to make it worthwhile. The minigames are barely even a distraction since they are mostly slight variations on events that take place in the game (snow boarding, hitting things with the boomerang). It has its redeeming qualities, especially the rush of the first few falling sequences, but ultimately I would recommend replaying Beyond Good and Evil, or Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, before picking this one up.

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11 years ago

I disagree, I LOVE Kya Dark Lineage. I think the graphics were fantastic, especially for it’s time, I think the battles are fun and never get old.
Kya always had something new to add that allowed the game to be interesting, new weapons, abilities or enemies.
The mini games aren’t all that great, I don’t pay too much attention to those, I do agree with that.
There isn’t too much of a plot either, that is true.
I’d play Kya Dark Lineage over Beyond Good and Evil and especially Prince of persia any day.
I love Beyond good & evil too, but not as much. I am not one to play Prince of persia again after I beat it.