Ivy The Kiwi?
Publisher: Xseed Games
Release Date: 08/24/2010
Yuji Naka, co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, is back with a new platformer. This time however, the hero is not fast, nor is it collecting rings or fighting megalomaniac bad guys. The game’s star is simply a bird that cannot even fly, and will keep walking no matter what happens. It is your job, using nothing but vines, to make sure that the bird makes it home.
Apparently this game was previously released on the Windows Mobile platform, a fact which I was completely unaware of, probably due to the fact that my phone is so old that no mobile game will ever be able to be played on this device. However, being a platformer fan, I am always glad when a game that looks like it has potential gets released in this day and age. The market for 2D platform games is shrinking every year, so it is nice to see that someone out there is still trying.
Let’s see if Ivy The Kiwi? – the question mark is an official part of the game’s title – is more than potential and can make the transition from mobile game to full-fledged console romp.
The story is very, very simple. Somewhere in the forest falls an egg with dots on it. When it hatches, the animals notice that the bird is different: it cannot fly even though it possesses wings, and its wings are fiery red. The bird looks around and notices that his mama is absent. It thus starts running until it finds its mother. A simple story, but the star of the game here is the gameplay mechanics, which we will discuss later.
As for modes, the game offers a single-player main mode, a multiplayer version that can pit up to four players against each other in a race to the end of the stage, and a stage trial mode to see if you can beat your best score. Both the main game and the stage trial can be played as cooperative modes. Simply connect a second controller, and both players can work as a team to guide Ivy to safety… or the second player can be a jerk and hinder your progresses by guiding the poor bird to a spiky death. I’m speaking from experience here.
As you can see, the story is pretty thin, and the number of available modes is pretty bare. Not much going on here, but what’s provided is at least fun and effective.
Story/Modes Rating: Poor
I think that the best word to describe the graphics would be “charming”. Everything looks as if it was drawn with crayons, and the protagonist is probably the cutest thing I have seen in a while when it comes to video games. The backgrounds are beautiful, but not distractingly so, and the levels as well as the enemies never get lost in the visuals.
Each chapter has a very distinct feel, featuring the standard platformer scenes of forests, plains and cities, but drawn in such a way that it looks like it is straight out of a storybook. To say that this game is gorgeous is an understatement. It may not be the most graphically intense game on the system, but it is incredibly stylish and it is a pure joy to look at.
Graphics Rating: Great
Once again, each chapter features a different theme, and all of them are instrumental pieces. While those set in nature or at night are usually very atmospheric and pleasant, some of the songs are a miss, such as the one set in the second chapter. In general, I would still give the music a generous grade. The variety alone is very satisfying.
As for the sound effects, they are subtle but fun, and never annoying. Everything is rather appropriate here, from the sound of the stretching vines to the cute little songs Ivy makes while walking through the stage.
Sound Rating: Great
CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY
The gameplay is simple, yet addictive. The object of the game is simply to help Ivy get from the start of the stage to the podium at the end. What you do in between is up to you, as long as you respect the time limit. You can simply dash to the end for a bigger bonus, or you can take some time to explore and collect red feathers and extra lives for more points. No matter which path you choose, there are pros and cons, so it’s up to you to find the best way to the goal.
In order to get there, you must stretch vines across gaps and obstacles in order to guide and protect Ivy. You can never have more than three vines on screen at a time, so some thinking is required here. If you simply stretch vines all over the place like I did at first, you will quickly lose the bird somewhere down a chasm or fling it into enemies by accident. You can also use the vines as slingshots to break rocks and dispose of the bad guys. In-game tutorials make sure to explain this better than I ever could with videos of the necessary actions.
I would have thought that a game that requires me to draw vines on a television while sitting a couple of feet away from the screen would feel loose and sloppy, but the truth is quite the contrary. The controls feel tight, even when more gentle moves are required in order to save Ivy from baddies or from a pit of spikes. Without being blinding, the speed at which Ivy walks requires quick decisions from the player in order to stay alive. The challenge comes mainly from trying to juggle everything that’s coming at you on the screen while making sure that the bird stays safe. Near the end of the game, when the levels really start to be packed, it can be quite frantic to protect Ivy from rats and crows over a series of spikes that’s as large as the screen.
I really have nothing negative to say about the controls. They are tight and simple, which is everything one could ever want from this type of game.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Classic
This game is extremely short if you simply stick to the main game. We’re talking about 50 levels, each lasting about a minute or two. Even with the constant deaths in the last few levels, one can possibly finish this game in about two hours. However, when the main adjective is accomplished, it unlocks 50 more levels, which are the same as the first 50, but with the obstacles and difficulty cranked to the max.
You can also try to unlock all of the gold medals, which are based on time and score. Doing so is considerably harder than simply going from point A to point B in each level. This should extend the life of your game by quite a few hours if you want to prove your skills with the vines.
Of course, more unlockables or rewards could have been fun, but over the years, I have learned that there are not many ways to increase a platformer’s replayability. This is just par for the course, really.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
I will admit that the game is almost too easy all the way to the fifth chapter. However, something happened on the sixth one which was almost overwhelming for my skills. The increase of multi-tasking, such as keeping enemies away from Ivy as you try to break bricks to get that last feather, really did slow down the pace at which I was going through this game. The end of the game will pose a real challenge to even the best players, which is fine as long as you can keep your sanity while restarting the same level for the twentieth time. My only gripe here is that the difficulty curve could have been more constant, which would have made jumping into the last few levels a bit easier.
Balance Rating: Decent
Before playing this game, I heard that it had some similarities to Kirby: Canvas Curse. It is easy to see where the games are a bit alike, but having played both, I can tell you that Kirby is much more action-oriented with a wider range of enemies and movements while Ivy the Kiwi? seems to focus more on speed and score. In a sense, with emphasis on score, this game is almost a throwback to arcade games that would take a very simple premise and just try to challenge your skills. Without being entirely original, Ivy does enough to look fresh despite being an upgrade of a mobile game.
Originality Rating: Decent
This is addictive in the sense that the levels are so short that you can easily play about a dozen in a row if you’re on a roll. However, when you’re done, you’ll realize that you still have only been playing for about half an hour. It’s a rather mild “addictiveness”, and the way the game works is more adapted to short distractions whenever the time permits.
Addictiveness Rating: Decent
This is a game that can appeal to casual gamers because of its short nature. It’s not intimidating in terms of content and gameplay, which makes it appropriate for the whole family. The fact that it is the brainchild of a co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog could also manage to appeal to some hardcore gamers, although with the recent reputation of Sonic’s games, that selling point could be mitigated. At the end of the day, despite all of the game’s qualities, this is still a niche title at best.
Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre
The multiplayer is surprisingly fun, and totally caught me off guard. I expected some kind of cooperative gameplay where the second player is simply tagging along, such as in both Super Mario Galaxy games. It is quite the opposite actually, since no matter if you choose cooperative or versus mode, both players are involved heavily in the gameplay, and can even turn cooperative games into a competitive bout.
The diversity in level design is also very creative. Despite working with a simple concept and few basic enemies and traps, the development team managed to craft different type of missions. Some levels you will encounter will be more about juggling with Ivy in midair, while others will be about defeating enemies on your way to the end, or even navigating a complicated maze. I’m glad they could get some extra mileage out of the basic concept.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Final Score: Above Average Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Ivy the Kiwi? is a wonderful little game that packs a lot of fun in an unfortunately too short adventure. Despite the game’s shortness, it’s loaded with style and exquisite gameplay, and for 30$, it’s still a pretty good deal. If you are a fan of platformers, give it a try. There’s a pretty good chance this could be right up your alley, as length is the game’s only major flaw.