Out now with a western release for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, Umihara Kawase BaZooKa! is the next iteration in a series that began over 25 years ago on the SNES. How does the latest game in the franchise play? We tested the PlayStation 4 version.
Although I missed out on the original SNES games, this isn’t my first go at the franchise – Sayonara Umihara Kawase+ came out for the Vita back in 2015 and I reviewed that game as well. From that perspective, Umihara Kawase BaZooKa! immediately felt familiar, despite the somewhat odd concept of setting out into a world as a sushi chef and battling aquatic creatures armed with a fishing rod and a brightly colored backpack full of lures.
Your fishing gear is crucial in how you get around each level though, as you use it to get from platform to platform and to attack enemies. Once they’re dazed, you can reel them in and turn them into cannon fodder – or rather bazooka fodder, which is how you end up clearing the level of enemies and progressing to the next of the game’s 40 levels. It’s rarely super challenging, but levels are on a timer so you can’t be too careful and need to hurry somewhat.
With its arcade-inspired action (Umihara Kawase BaZooKa! reminds me a little of Bubble Bobble), it’s nice that multiplayer modes are included as well, letting you play with up to three other players locally and online – with both cooperative and competitive play being available. We playtested offline, and because of a relatively short single player campaign having the option to go multiplayer does definitely add lasting appeal to the game – and it’s frantic and often fun.
The visuals are reminiscent of the Vita version from 5 years ago, but much crisper and with colors that pop out more. You also get plenty of familiar enemy characters and the game features that cheerful melodic music that you expect in a game like this. There’s a tune for each of the four game worlds, so there could have been a bit more diversity there considering the fact that there are forty levels to play through.
Umihara Kawase BaZooKa! has an impressive roster of 20 different characters to play with, and although the base controls are the same for all of them they do bring their own special moves with them – which sometimes translate to special abilities. One character can act as a (self-)healer, while others have additional options for ranged combat – so you can mix things up a bit according to your preferred playstyle.
Boss Fights are a bit ‘retro arcade’, but not in a positive way. They all look different, but the core concept is always the same – hammer them with shots until they get stunned, then try to take them down with attacks. Games like Cuphead have definitely spoiled us in this regard, with Umihara Kawase BaZooKa! not applying enough variety to the formula.
With easy to learn controls (check the tutorials in the menu, since the game throws you into the deep end without teaching you) and fun arcade gameplay, Umihara Kawase BaZooKa! is a worthy new addition to the franchise that shows us that its lure-based gameplay is alive and well in 2020. Unless you dive into the multiplayer modes, however, the game can get repetitive, so my advice would be to find a few friends to play with and enjoy some old-fashioned arcade fun that way.