Game Review – Kairuga

Kairuga by Kairos is a top-down action shooter modeled after the cult hit Ikaruga of console fame. As such, it’s billed as an homage, and accomplishes this quite admirably!

Now, I definitely want to clarify the difference between homage and rip-off. An homage is built around the concept of something, either as a study, or fan art, or any other love-letter-esque media one can use to show their appreciation. A rip-off is a blatant theft of an idea, and a subsequent attempt to hide this theft and market an idea as their own. If nothing else, Kairuga is a fantastically executed example of the former. If you’re going to study a game and make an homage, let Kairuga be your guide.


Kairuga itself is a very well done dissection of Ikaruga’s gameplay mechanics. For those unfamiliar with either, you fly a ship in the top-down shmup fashion, facing wave after wave of enemy ships. Now, the big twist is the polarity system. Enemy projectiles come in two different flavors: red and blue. If your ship’s polarity matches the bullet when you intersect, you absorb it instead of being destroyed, using the energy to power your ‘smart bomb’ weapon.

Ikaruga brought the bullet-hell shooter into the mainstream consciousness, and Kairuga echoes this expertly. The enemies in Kairuga are brilliant and imaginatively designed. The attack patterns are engaging, if not a little haphazard at times. But they are, most of all, difficult!

I don’t really have anything negative to say about Kairuga. It’s a spectacular demonstration of the developer’s skill, and it’s based off a spectacular game. If anything should be noted, it’s a warning: Kairuga is not an easy game. Not even on the ‘easy’ difficulty setting. Managing your targets, dodging incoming fire, and minding that ever-important polarity mechanic provides the apex of a fast, mental workout. The learning curve is absolutely vertical, but infinitely rewarding.

This is definitely one of those games that must be played to be understood. As much as I’d like to talk about web patterns and bullet sprays, or to attempt to convey the feeling of barely eeking out the last hit on a boss, I think in this case the game will have to speak for itself. So, without question, try Kairuga. If you have any penchant for the top-down shoot ’em up you’ll love it. I myself am a big fan and loved my time with the game. If you don’t, don’t worry. This is the kind of game no one is good at the first time they play. Regardless, go, play.

Play Kairuga on PC »

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