Everyone loves a game they can get stuck into. Many of the most popular games take up to forty hours or more of dedication to complete; there are bosses to vanquish, innocents to rescue, and a sprawling story to explore. But what about a game that only takes 15 minutes to finish? I can hear you now: ‘A game that takes only 15 minutes? It must be rubbish.’ I was sceptical too at first, wondering just how much could actually be crammed into a mere 15 minutes. While I will admit that Kinoko won’t be for everybody, there is plenty to appreciate.
Kinoko originally began as a student project by ThunderLime and won the Dare Academy competition in 2018. The game has only been out for a month, but it is already basking in a lot of positivity from players.
Kinoko is available on PC (Steam) and is free to play.
Story – Winter, Begone
It is time to say farewell to the frost and ice, and welcome in the blossom and blooms. Spring offers a new beginning for all, but who welcomes in one of the most colourful times of the year? Introducing Kinoko. Through him, players get to wave goodbye to the icy winds and plant the seeds of Spring.
In this brief adventure, the player controls the title character, Kinoko, a woodland spirit with a very important role. It is his job to clear away the snow and bring about Spring. The player aids him in his mission by cleaning up the snow and encouraging flowers to bloom. Kinoko is not alone in his task and meets a variety of adorable woodland animals along the way. Wandering around the forest are hedgehogs, raccoons, moles, and even a sleeping fox, but that is not all. Strange floral creatures also roam the woods, following Kinoko as he wipes away Winter for another year and helping him in his task.
There isn’t much of a story to Kinoko because the game it too short to cram in a running narrative. Although there isn’t a story to it, I found that the concept works well enough on its own.
Gameplay – Bloomin’ Brilliant
When Kinoko’s adventure begins, there are four little forest animals that take the player through the controls. Kinoko shakes trees, digs up snow piles, and uses his magic to encourage flowers to bloom. With each remnant of Winter that the protagonist clears, the land turns green and colourful flora grows. After completing these tasks, a rune pillar is unlocked that Kinoko lowers to reveal the way ahead. This is a simple mechanic that I really liked. To lower the pillar, the player holds ‘A’ on the controller and toggles down with the joystick. After the tutorial, Kinoko progresses to the second area where he can put his new skills into practice.
There is a map/world overview which pinpoints where everything is in a particular area. The map also shows how much progress the player has made. There are three guides at the bottom keeping score of how much is complete and what still needs doing. I found this incredibly helpful in working out where I needed to be next and how much progress I’d made.
While venturing through the wilds, Kinoko attracts cute forest animals that will follow him. Unlike many games, these tiny critters don’t get in the way. If he stops near one of them, they will approach. When they reach him, a heart pops up and they give a sweet little chirp. Along with these strange creatures, there are also animals much more familiar to our world. There are hedgehogs and raccoons wandering around, and moles that pop out of the ground. For me, details like this added to the overall endearing nature of the game.
There are a few minor issues with Kinoko. The camera makes a habit of jumping around, but it will settle when the player takes back control. There are also issues with the ease of play. It is possible to play Kinoko with a keyboard, although the developers have recommended a controller. I tried to use a keyboard for a short while, but it is tricky. The options menu only shows the buttons for a controller, and it is up to the player to figure out which keys to use on a keyboard. This may cause some issues for PC players who don’t own a controller. Along with this, and as mentioned above, the game only takes around fifteen minutes to play. I can see some not liking this as by the time players have learned the mechanics, the game is over. I can understand this and would love to see more. There is so much potential here should the developers decide to expand on the charming world they’ve created.
The beauty of Kinoko lies in the game’s simplicity. While there are a few issues, players can still enjoy a laid-back, relaxing experience.
Graphics and Audio – Serenity at its Best
Kinoko features beautiful, 3D graphics to venture through and get lost in. I enjoyed the attention to detail, like the shadows cast by the trees and the grass waving in the breeze. The water colours and subdued tones give the game a soft edge, fitting in with the overall springtime feel.
One design aspect I loved is Kinoko’s appearance. He fits in so well with his surroundings, adding a mystical factor to the experience. From his wizard-style hat to his raggedy clothing and wide eyes, he looks like a gentle forest spirit should.
Along with the pleasant graphics, there is also calming background music and environmental sounds. Each audio element compliments the other and doesn’t drown the other out. As mentioned above, the odd creatures that approach Kinoko also chirp and make sounds of their own.
The audio aspects of Kinoko work well with the graphics. The mellow sounds and the soft graphics couple perfectly to create a calming atmosphere and an enchanting environment.
Kinoko was reviewed on PC via Steam.