Take one look at Miles & Kilo and it becomes pretty obvious where the game draws its inspiration from. It looks like Super Mario Brothers. It sounds like Super Mario Brothers. It feels like Super Mario Brothers. The main character even looks like the famous Italian plumber. Miles, in his blue and red outfit, is only missing an M on his red cap and a black moustache to complete his get-up.
Yet when you play it, you realise that Miles & Kilo is so much more than some cheap Mario clone. Everything in this game is executed brilliantly and it is a joy to play.
Most of the time you’ll be playing as Miles. He and his trusty dog Kilo are out flying their airplane when they get lost in a storm and veer dangerously off course. They end up being intercepted by an evil ghost named Ripple who traps them on his archipelago of fun. He and his minions steal your airplane pieces and it is up to you to recover them all, repair your plane and escape.
You must overcome 36 levels across five worlds in order to complete your quest. The formula is simple: complete six levels, beat a boss, repeat. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but then it doesn’t have to be. The real entertainment of this game comes from its incredibly smooth gameplay. As Miles, you’ll be able to jump, slide, throw fruit to kill enemies and climb walls. And because of the game’s tight controls, you’ll be able to link jumps and slides together with ease. Being able to do this and traverse levels at speed feels extremely satisfying.
This isn’t the only way to travel across the archipelago either. You’ll find many opportunities to surf, ride mine carts or zip-line too. You never know what form of travel might pop up. One moment you might be surfing across a vast ocean dodging all manner of fishy foes, the next you might find yourself zip-lining across massive chasms.
Milo is just one half of our heroic duo though. What of his trusty sidekick Kilo? No need to fear, as you’ll be able to play as the lovable hound too. He pops up several times throughout the game and shakes up the gameplay significantly. Kilo runs automatically, meaning players will have to react quickly if they hope to avoid incoming enemies. He can also roll to avoid enemies as well as home in on them, Sonic-style, to clear large gaps. With so many ways to travel through levels, there is really never a dull moment playing Miles & Kilo.
The game is very tough however. After a quick tutorial, you’re essentially thrown straight into the action and expected to adapt and overcome. The levels may start off easy enough, but things quickly take a turn for the difficult. Everything has it in for you on these haunted isles it seems. Fruit-throwing monkeys, crabs, birds and giant wasps are just some of the enemies you’ll need to avoid. Miles just can’t catch a break!
You’ll die. A lot.
Luckily, it’s relatively painless. There are no loading screens to contend with so you can instantly try again. And the levels are short enough that a death doesn’t feel like a massive waste of your time. You won’t lose points either and your death tally won’t count against your level ranking (more on that later). At the end of my first playthrough I had over 500 deaths, yet not once did I feel like putting the game down or rage-quitting. I found the gameplay tough, but not impossible, and each death was a learning opportunity. I could quickly get back to where I was and try something else to get that little bit further.
It’s not just the gameplay that is brilliant. The graphics and soundtrack are great too, and fit perfectly with a game of this nature. The 8-bit graphics are nostalgic yet also give off a polished and more modern feel. Bright colours are in abundance and this is by no means a drab game. Chris Kukla’s chiptune soundtrack is also straight out the ’80s. It piles on the nostalgia and provides a perfect accompaniment for Miles and Kilo’s adventure.
The game offers an element of replayability through its time attack mode. Unlocked after you complete the story mode, it asks the player to do it all again. This time however, you’re being timed and your deaths are being counted. There is a nice competitive element here as you can compare your times and the amount of deaths you had against other adventurers, competing for the top spot on the global leaderboard.
Perfectionists will also find plenty to do after they have completed the game. Every time you finish a level, you’ll be awarded a ranking with S being the best and D being the worst. S rankings are awarded for beating the allocated time, collecting all the coins and finishing with five fruits all in the same run. So you’ll need to be super quick, super precise and know when to save your fruits. No easy feat.
There’s an achievement for getting every S ranking as well as one for collecting every coin. Meanwhile, other achievements will have you attempting to finish levels without killing any enemies or without throwing any fruits. But the one achievement that players will probably spend the most time on is the appropriately-named Seriously Skilled, which asks the player to finish time attack mode with less than ten deaths. All-in-all, the achievement list is a great mix of fun and tough achievements.
So what’s not to like? Well, the game’s only real negative is its length. Miles & Kilo on Xbox One is a short game. I went in blind, not knowing what to expect, and I managed to beat it in just under two hours. The levels are really well designed but too short. Pretty much every stage can be finished in thirty seconds or less. My first time attack run was even shorter at just under an hour, and I’ve whittled that time down since then. At the time of writing this, the fastest players have finished the game in a mere 15 minutes. This is only a minor criticism however, especially considering the game was largely developed by one man, Michael Burns, and the fact that everything else is so well executed.
Miles & Kilo is an extremely enjoyable, if tough, experience and is well worth the relatively cheap price tag. The controls are simple and the gameplay is varied but extremely fast. There is never a dull moment during your adventure. In addition, the graphics and soundtrack are amazingly well done and have a lot of charm. The story is very short, but players will find plenty to do after completing it. A fun time all round!