Ivy the Kiwi

December 30, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Posted in Game Review, Wii Review | Leave a comment
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Yuji Naka’s new title hits the Wii thanks to Rising Star Games. But can it match the esteemed Director’s past games?

Title: Ivy the Kiwi?

Format: Wii

Developed by: Prope

Published by: Rising Star Games

Genre: Platform-Puzzle

2010 has been a pretty fine year for small undiscovered gaming gems and the Wii has had more than its fair share. Fragile Dreams, A Shadow’s Tale and Rune Factory Frontier are just a few that have hit the console in the last year and given any gamer savvy enough to seek them out many hours of deeply satisfying gaming fun. Rising Star Games, who surely deserve recognition for the sheer number of gems they’ve brought to Europe in the last few years, have capped off 2010 with yet another little treasure, Ivy the Kiwi.

Designed by Sonic-creator Yuji Naka’s Prope Studio, Ivy the Kiwi is a delightful and charming little platform/puzzle game where players must guide the titular little bird through a series of maze-like levels while avoiding various hazards. Players don’t get to directly control Ivy – she keeps running in one direction – instead platforms must be drawn on the screen using the wii remote to gently guide her through each level. It’s very similar to the control systems in games like Yoshi’s Touch & Go and Kirby’s Cursed Canvas on the DS. Although the premise is one that most gamers will be familiar with, the game still feels unique thanks to the depth of the controls.

The key to getting Ivy around quickly and in one piece is to use her momentum to deftly flick her over, under and around obstacles. Ivy can’t fly, but will flap her arms to give herself a little extra lift when she’s in mid-air. Combine this with the versatile vine platforms that can be drawn with the remote and then stretched like an elastic band and you have a simple, yet solid set of techniques at hand to get Ivy to the end of each stage.

There are usually several different paths through each level and players are actively encouraged to explore to find the quickest course to the goal, or to collect one of ten kiwi feathers hidden in each stage. One of the most impressive aspects of Ivy the Kiwi is in the design of the levels. They’re designed in such a way that novice players can muddle their way through to the end but it takes real skill to get a quick completion time and nail a good score bonus. They are also incredibly tough, and later levels will pose a challenge to even the most hardened gamer.

As with other Yuji Naka games, Ivy the Kiwi has a pretty robust and addictive score attack mode. Trying to shave a few seconds off a best time is really compelling and can easily soak up an extra few hours once the main game is over. There is also a fun multiplayer mode, for up to four players, where you have to compete to finish each level in the quickest time.

Another major plus point is the game’s presentation. Prope cooked up a visual treat in their last game, Let’s Tap, with its entrancing Tron-like graphics and have done the same here. Ivy the Kiwi looks as if it has been drawn on an aging parchment for a childrens books. Every character, object and level has a soft, sketchy outline and gentle pastel colours. Screenshots look impressive enough, but in motion it just looks incredible. The pleasant soundtrack compliments the visuals nicely, rounding off a title that easily sits amongst the most beautiful wii games on the market.

Where Ivy the Kiwi falls short, is that while it is incredibly fun, it doesn’t offer great value for money, at least in its retail guise. Even at a budget price it’s hard to recommend, which pains me to say as it is such a lovely game and deserves to sell well. The version available via DSiWare is much better value, despite fewer levels, a drop in visual quality and the clunkier stylus controls (I personally preferred using the wii remote). If the rumoured WiiWare version ever gets released it would be a definite must-have but sadly in its current retail-only format, Ivy the Kiwi doesn’t quite cut it.

7/10

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