Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Ivy the Kiwi?

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            The latest release from the new studio headed by Sonic the Hedgehog co-creator Yuji Naka is all about getting back-to-basics. Much like Prope’s previous effort, Let’s Tap, Ivy the Kiwi? refuses to bow to the tradition that as hardware systems become more complex, so too should software mechanics. But Ivy the Kiwi? is also a game that avoids getting lumbered in the ‘casual’ bracket, simply because of it’s fiendishly addictive Platform gameplay.

            As a closet comparison one would draw upon Yoshi’s: Touch and Go, an early Nintendo DS title in which Yoshi continually moved across the 2D levels from left-to-right without command from the player, who had to secure his passage. From drawing paths across gaps to plotting the trajectory of eggsElectronic Theatre Image at enemies, Yoshi’s: Touch and Go Was all about showcasing the unique gameplay opportunities afforded by the Nintendo DS’s then unique touch screen functionality. Five years later, Prope has fleshed-out the idea from what was effectively a tech demo into an endearing Platform adventure, yet one that remains perfectly suited to the host format.

            Players adopt the role of a guiding hand for Ivy, a Kiwi hatched without the ability to fly, but also without her mother being present. Still with her egg attached to her body, Ivy races-off in search of her mother, completely unaware of the danger that could befall her. Of course, that’s where the player’s guiding hand comes into play.

            The levels in Ivy the Kiwi? are constructed as puzzle runs around the handful of gameplay mechanics the game presents. Ivy will always run in the direction prompted (left-to-right at the start of each level), and without hesitation will charge straight into chasms, spikes, enemies and any number of other inconveniencies throughout the level. Using the stylus on the touch screen, the player can draw vines to support Ivy, creating walkways, and flexible tightropes that can be used to catapult our little lost Kiwi into previously unreachable areas.

            Of course, the game begins fairly gently, with a couple of spike traps blocking the path from level start to podium finish, but things soon become more complicated. Players will quickly learn to fling Ivy about with abandon, knowing that swift reactions can rectify near-any small mistake and often finding hard-to-reach bonus items. Given that Ivy the Kiwi? presents a map of the level on the top screen, there are no hidden locations as such, but with such a demand placed upon the timing of a player’s reactions, absorbing such information is difficult at the best of times, and finding some of the many bonuses can be tricky to say the least.

            On the Nintendo DS, Ivy the Kiwi? also features a multiplayer option, including the ability to play via the sorely underused Single-Card DS Download functionality. Here there are two gameplay modes available, Race and Medal Collection. Race is a simple fastest-to-podium set-up, while Medal Collection is a bit more challenging. AnyoneElectronic Theatre Image may be able to have fun with the simple Race set-up, be it playing as a beginner against a pro of vice versa, but Medal Collection realistically demands that two players of similar skill compete, as control over Ivy’s position is far more important than making progress.

            Remarkably for what could be considered a fairly quaint 2D Platform game, Ivy the Kiwi? has a stunning visual quality. A sombre colour palette highlights Ivy’s struggle without being forceful, as despite her desperation to find her mother Ivy never shows any signs of hopelessness or fatigue. Her mission is as such, and with the player’s help she shall do her best. This is also reflected in the uplifting soundtrack: falling short of an aural design masterpiece, Ivy the Kiwi?’s accompaniment follows the typically inoffensive Platform game tradition of delivering a hum-able jingle, but in such a way that it supports the idea that this poor young Kiwi is bearing the weight of terrible hardships. The biggest problem with Ivy the Kiwi?’s presentation is the localisation effort, as while the story presentation is minimal, there are obvious errors in sentence structure from the very first screen.

             As the next title from a portfolio that includes one of the most fondly remembered 2D Platform game heroes of all time, Ivy the Kiwi? is a surprisingly robust videogame. The team at Prope has taken a simple idea and built an absorbing, rewarding experience around the very simple mechanic. Ivy the Kiwi? is of unlikely to ever reach the level of recognition that has been showered upon Sonic the Hedgehog, perhaps more due to the incredibly different market it’s launching into nearly twenty years later, but it deserves to receive significant praise for doing that which so very few Platform games do these days: try something different.

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