Blood Sport

HIGH Fast and frenetic non-stop action.

LOW The stages are long with a very short timer.

WTF Those instant-death trigger-traps…

Okinawa Rush succeeds in presenting a fast-paced, revenge-fueled action-adventure reminiscent of martial arts films from the ’80s. The presentation and (surprisingly!) the voice acting is top-notch, as is the upbeat music, with all of this instantly setting the mood.

Story-wise, we follow the wake of destruction left by an evil ninja clan who dabbles in the occult, relying on demonic powers to collect the items they need for complete domination. The three martial arts masters stand in their way, blocking their path towards this evil scheme.

The action here is presented in 2D with pixel-based art. All three of the masters share a robust list of attacks that are performed by inputting fighting game-style commands reminiscent of something like Street Fighter. Though the moves are exactly the same for all three characters, they differ only in their sprites and (marginally) their stats.

After a short intro, we’re plunged into the middle of a conflict. Soon after, hordes of enemies start materializing out of the thin air. To dispatch them, we must learn the list of moves by heart and successfully pull of hadou-kens, oh-yu-kens, and charged attacks, or we can utilize the occasional melee weapon with limited durability. Either way, chaining a series of strikes will send enemies flying, their bodies colliding in unsettling positions as they splat on the next wall.

Every downed foe adds time to a counter in the upper right corner of the screen, which means we have to maintain a high tempo and chain kills. If we are successful, we’ll rack up the score meter, but also create a sufficient reserve of time needed to deal with the boss waiting at the end of the line. 

While the environments lack visual flair by often featuring gloomy underground caves and plain dark-green fields, there’s never time to dwell on such things. The wide variety of awesomely-drawn baddies will surprise players and keep them on their toes, capturing their attention at all times.

This opposition we face in Okinawa Rush demands nuance and a ton of memorization. If timed correctly, we can counter or block every single attack, but it’s not long before the whole screen is filled with dozens of enemies, weapons, and projectiles. As such, we’ll have to consider the “timetable” of skirmishes, constantly staying mindful of each scenario to avoid the game over screen that pops up if we allow the timer to reach zero. This inherent difficulty is nothing to laugh at, especially considering the limited number of continues.

Unfortunately, slapping a timer on top of such a mechanically deep brawler simply doesn’t gel well. Aside from memorizing moves, performing them correctly and handling waves of enemies, it’s also necessary to memorize the enemies’ spawn points and any environmental traps, and that’s a lot of “homework” for the player to take on if they wish to ultimately roll credits. This challenge-forward design may limit its potential audience — those who might have enjoyed performing vicious wrestling grapples and karate chops on aggressive mobs might find that the literal “rush” undermines the experience.

It pains me to say it, but I came away from Okinawa Rush with the sense that it’s a huge missed opportunity. The frustration of dealing with the timer quickly builds up and overshadows everything that the developers get right.   

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

— Konstantin Koteski

Disclosures: This game is developed by Sokaikan Ltd. and published by No Gravity Games. It is currently available on XBO/X/S, PS4/5, PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the story, and the game was not completed. There is an option for local drop-in, drop-out co-op.

Parents: This game has received a T rating from the ESRB, and contains Blood and Gore, Violence and Tobacco. This 2D action-heavy side-scroller features nicely drawn sprites of humanoids and fantasy characters, each able to perform a myriad of offensive moves. Many attacks are ultra-violent and can set enemies on fire or cut of some of their limbs. Blood splashes everywhere, although that can be toned down.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Whenever there’s dialogue, it’s accompanied by very large subtitles, whose size cannot be altered. Sound is completely unimportant for playing, so this experience is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game offers a controller diagram, and the control scheme is remappable.

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