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Keen – One Girl Army Indie Video Game Review

While they might not be for everyone I have always been a fan of the slide puzzle genre. The premise behind the genre is pretty simple. You control a character that for some reason can’t stop on their own. You send them in a direction and they keep moving in that direction until they hit an obstacle. Most games from this genre use this mechanic to set up puzzles where players have to figure out how to navigate a level to reach a final destination space. When I first saw Keen – One Girl Army it obviously showed a lot of similarities to other games in the genre, but it did something unique as well. In addition to the typical puzzles the game added in a combat mechanic. This really intrigued me as I have never seen a similar mechanic added to this genre before. Keen – One Girl Army may seem like your typical slide puzzle game at first, but due to a totally original new combat mechanic it creates a highly enjoyable game that fans of the genre should love.

We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Cat Nigiri, Phoenixx Inc., and 2P Games for the review copy of Keen – One Girl Army used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.

In Keen – One Girl Army you play as the eight year old Kim. Kim has been raised by her grandmother ever since her mother abandoned her at a young age. Kim’s family is part of a long line of warriors whose task is to protect their village from evil forces with their overly large magic sword. As a horde of zombies and other enemies converge on Kim’s village she must set out on an adventure to try and put a stop to them. On her journey though she realizes things might not be as they initially appear as there may be more to the initial attack on her village.

If I were to explain Keen – One Girl Army’s gameplay I would say that it plays a lot like your typical slide puzzle with a twist. In the game you will try to complete various levels which consist of a set of interconnected grids. On these grids there are open spaces that you can move through and other spaces that are occupied by boxes and other obstacles. In the game you control your character by pressing a button to either move her left, right, up or down. Once you press the button your character will keep moving in that direction until they either run into an obstacle or they reach one of the edges of the grid. As you progress through the game you will eventually encounter boxes that you can push and others that you can break which opens up new movement opportunities. The objective of the game is to move between the different grid sections to reach the final destination of the level.

So far I have basically described your typical slide puzzle game as these mechanics are in pretty much every game from the genre. What distinguishes Keen – One Girl Army from other games in this genre though is the fact that the game also introduces combat mechanics into this framework. Many of the grid sections in each level contain enemy units that you need to either defeat or avoid as you only have a very limited amount of health. You will first get to make one move and then all of the enemy units will move one space. You can deal damage to enemies in one of two ways. First if an enemy is in your movement path you will slide through them and deal two damage which is enough to kill most enemies. Otherwise if your movement is stopped by an obstacle/edge of the grid and there is an enemy in an adjacent space you will deal one damage and stun them for their next turn. After you take your turn all of the enemies will get to move one space (generally towards you) and if they land on one of the spaces adjacent to your current position they will deal damage to you. Some enemies also have special attacks that cover additional ground. If you run out of health you will be sent back to your previous checkpoint. Each checkpoint you hit though fully restores your health.

As a fan of slide puzzle games I would have likely enjoyed Keen – One Girl Army even if it didn’t include the combat mechanics. There is something enjoyable about figuring out how to move your character around the environment in order to reach the destination space. The game deserves credit in this regard as it does a good job creating fun puzzles that take some out of the box thinking to solve. Fans of slide puzzles should enjoy Keen – One Girl Army even if they aren’t too keen on the idea of combat being added to the genre.

The combat is genuinely what makes Keen – One Girl Army as good of a game as it is though. I am not sure if there have been any other slide puzzle games that have included a similar combat mechanic. If not though I think more should consider it in the future. As it is completely turned based I would say that the combat feels like a big puzzle. You can take your time to plan out what you want to do. As the enemies move in predictable patterns you can plan out how each move you make will position yourself as well as all of the enemies. Therefore with planning you can make moves that will kill enemies or position yourself in a way to kill them on a future turn. The combat has no randomness to it as you have to figure out the puzzle in order to defeat the enemies while keeping yourself safe. You can make the occasional mistake which will lead to you losing some health. Each section of a level though has been designed in a way that if you follow the correct path you can defeat all of the enemies without incurring any damage.

I never knew I wanted combat in a slide puzzle game before, and now I honestly wish more games would include a similar mechanic in the future. While I talked about the typical slide puzzle mechanics and the combat separately earlier, the two mechanics actually work surprisingly well together. When you add the need to reach certain locations in a large interconnected grid with the combat you are basically left with a giant puzzle that you need to solve. Careful planning and thinking outside the box is how you are going to solve the overall puzzle of each level. I am a fan of this genre of puzzle game, and I thought Keen – One Girl Army’s gameplay was really satisfying. It is probably one of if not the best game that I have ever played from this genre. If you have never liked slide puzzles Keen – One Girl Army will obviously not change your mind as the mechanics aren’t drastically different. Those that like this genre though should really enjoy Keen – One Girl Army.

While I really liked Keen – One Girl Army’s gameplay, I would say that for the most part the game is on the easier side. The game requires planning and out of the box thinking, but most of the time you don’t have to worry about dying. There are sections of the game where your movements have to be almost perfect in order to avoid a lot of damage, but most of the time the levels are open enough that you have quite a few options to avoid enemies until you are able to attack them. You may incur a few points of damage here or there, but you likely will reach a checkpoint before you are in any real damage. The puzzles are not always straightforward, but there are a limited number of potential options so you will eventually come upon the solution if you keep trying different things.

The game being on the easy side can be seen as both a good and a bad thing. On the positive side the game never becomes frustrating. You don’t need to be an expert at slide puzzles in order to succeed in the game. You can’t brute force your way through the game, but you can sit back and relax while figuring out the correct path. Those that are looking for a challenge though will probably be a little disappointed. Especially if you play a lot of games in this genre you will probably not have too much trouble with the game. Outside of completing the additional challenges and finding all of the hidden orbs you will likely find the game to be kind of easy.

Most of the game is pretty easy, but there is one element of the game that can actually be pretty difficult. One thing I haven’t discussed yet is the fact that every couple levels includes a boss fight. These levels are similar to all of the others except that you will eventually have to defeat a boss. In the boss fights you don’t directly fight the bosses, but instead fight waves of enemies that are spawned by the boss. Defeat all of the enemies and then you can move to a spot which will deal damage to the boss. In addition to fighting enemy units some waves will include a puzzle where you need to figure out a precise movement pattern or you will lose a lot of health.

I thought the addition of boss battles was quite clever. These sections don’t drastically change the typical gameplay, but they feel like a nice change of pace. I kind of wish the game featured a few more as there are only three or four in the entire game. The boss fights are considerably more difficult than the rest of the game as your options are considerably more limited. In many cases there is only one correct set of moves that will allow you to avoid taking damage. The boss fights consist of several waves  of enemies back to back which means that you need to limit your mistakes or you will quickly run out of health. Much of the boss fights depend on figuring out the correct set of moves to finish a wave without taking damage. This leads to some trial and error as you eventually learn the movement patterns to avoid taking damage. Despite relying on some trial and error I found these boss fights to be quite fun as they really test how well you can plan your moves.

As for the game’s story and overall atmosphere I would say that it is a little hit or miss. The game creates an interesting world and the graphical style fits the game well. The game can be genuinely funny at times as well. The problem with the story is that there isn’t a lot to it. I kind of wish the game had expanded on the story as I think the world and characters could have been further developed. The story is far from bad, but I think the game wasted the opportunity to make it even better.

I would say that the biggest problem that I had with Keen – One Girl Army is that I just wish it was a little longer. Now the game isn’t short as I would guess it will take most players around 5-7 hours to complete the main game. Unless you rush through the levels most should take around a half hour to complete as they actually feature quite a few different sections that you need to traverse. I actually like the longer length of the levels. I just wish there was more of them. This is because the story seems to end a little abruptly (the actual ending to the story is fine), and I think the game could have easily supported more levels. There is also the fact that I just wish there were more levels because I was really enjoying the game.

As for the replay value I would say that it is a little limited as the puzzles won’t change in a second playthrough. The game does have a decent amount of additional content beyond the main storyline though. In each level there are a number of different orbs that you can collect. You receive one just for beating a level, but you can acquire two more for completing various objectives. Many of these entail either killing all of the enemies in the level or avoiding taking any damage. In addition to these there are a number of hidden orbs that require more challenging puzzles to collect or that are placed in hidden sections of a level. The orbs you collect are used to access special challenge levels which unlock special abilities that will help you throughout the rest of the game. You should try to collect as many of these as you can during the game as these additional abilities are quite helpful. You are unlikely to get all of them on your first attempt though so you will have to play through a level two or three times to get all of them. Those that enjoy the game could get quite a bit more time out of the game if they try to obtain all of the orbs as some will be quite difficult to acquire.

I have to say that I was genuinely surprised by Keen – One Girl Army. As a fan of slide puzzles I thought the game would be just like every other slide puzzle game. The game does take many of the mechanics that are typical in the genre and utilizes them to create fun puzzles. What really makes the game stand out though is the addition of the combat mechanic. The combat ultimately feels like a puzzle. You need to position your own character while analyzing where the enemies will move in order to take them out without incurring damage yourself. This is really fun and forces you to think outside the box. The story is interesting if not a little underdeveloped. Much of the game is on the easier side as outside of the boss battles you don’t have to worry about dying if you think carefully. The game is also a little on the shorter side as I was really enjoying it and then it just kind of ended.

My recommendation for Keen – One Girl Army basically comes down to your opinion of slide puzzles. While I really enjoyed the game, it is pretty obvious that the game is not going to appeal to people that don’t like slide puzzles. Those that like slide puzzles though should love Keen – One Girl Army and I would highly recommend they consider picking it up.

Buy Keen – One Girl Army online: Steam

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