Ivy the Kiwi?
Yuji Naka is the co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, that much we all know, but it’s easy to forget that the head of Sonic Team also gave the world Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. Accordingly, it’s difficult to know how to approach Ivy The Kiwi?, a platformer from Naka-founded Prope Limited.
Originally released to Japanese Windows Mobile devices in late 2009, this lovingly-designed tale has found its home on the Wii and Nintendo DS as a budget title, albeit an offering that boasts 100 levels. It’s a fairly complete package to be sure, yet has Naka’s protégés at Prope managed to restore their fabled founder’s reputation?
First things first, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the gameplay mechanics of Ivy The Kiwi? bear more than a passing resemblance to the 2005 Nintendo DS release Kirby: Power Paintbrush. Much like Kirby in Paintbrush, Ivy is a character that moves independently of the players control and must be guided by drawing vines via the Wii Remote. Players have complete control over the length and direction of each vine and can eventually even create slingshots to send the titular hero through the levels.
In addition to completing levels, players are also challenged to collect 10 feathers which have been scattered through each level, a practise which turns the title from a breezy platformer to a preceise and often infuriating action-puzzler. While you’ll initially feel like punching the air upon collecting all ten collectibles, considering the amount of levels, feathers and the difficulty involved to catch a potential 1,000, you’ll be forgiven for quickly growing tired of the challenge.
Speaking of our title character, Kiwi is a title that is slight on characterisation but heavy on charm. Essentially, all you need to know is that Ivy is a newly born bird that has fallen out of her nest and needs to find her mother, and you’re the one that literally has to guide her. Sure, the lack of a deep narrative is symptomatic of the title’s mobile roots, yet that’s not to say a lightweight storyline affects the character’s exploits. If anything, Ivy’s simplicity helps trump any award-winning script, while the bold, storybook presentation is nothing if not unique.
While we’ve already mentioned that Ivy has over 100 levels, there is one important caveat – the majority can be completed in less than two minutes. Having said that, the difficulty ramps up to a quite intimidating level later on, so don’t expect to see the back of a level in two minutes flat. To help longevity, a four-player split-screen option has also been incorporated, whereby players race towards the finish line of any chosen level. Considering the brevity of each, it’s a smart decision, while the usage of vines to block rival player lends a chaotic nature to local multiplayer sessions.
If you think back to the launch titles for the Wii and Nintendo DS, each looked to exploit the unique features of their chosen medium to the fullest (Yoshi Touch & Go for DS, WarioWare: Touched! For Wii), yet such thinking has largely fell by the wayside in recent years to chase white-hot gaming trends, be they maths puzzle titles or dance releases.
Thus, while it may be difficult to call Ivy The Kiwi? an innovative title, particularly because so much of the gameplay harks back to a five-year-old Nintendo DS near-launch title, Ivy’s exploits are a breath of fresh air in today’s gaming landscape. While Ivy may have been released on mobile devices first, the title appears to have found its natural home on the Wii.
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