Ivy the Kiwi?: review

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  • Format: Wii (version reviewed), DS
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Rising Star Games
  • Developer: Prope
  • Players: 1 – 4
  • Site: www.ivythekiwi.com

  • After leaving Sonic Team (and therefore the sinking ship of the Sonic franchise also) in 2006, Yuji Naka formed his own company Prope in order to become hands – on with development once more. The latest game to result is Ivy the Kiwi?; but does it deserve the success that has eluded Prope titles so far?

    It works like this: Ivy constantly jogs forward until she hits something. If it’s something lethal she loses a life and you have to start the level from scratch; otherwise she turns and starts moving in the opposite direction. Rather than controlling Ivy directly you play the part of some kind of foliage wielding god, drawing vines on-screen. You can stretch, shrink, and rotate a vine whilst drawing it by holding down A. When you let go of the button the vine stays as you left it. Stretch a vine too far and it will snap; and the number of vines you can draw is limited to three. Draw a fourth, and the first will immediately disappear.

    Vines can be used as a sort of bird torturing baseball bat to hit/throw Ivy around in place of a jump button, or simply as platforms for her to walk on. There are four types of hazards to be found throughout the game: spikes to be avoided, rats to be avoided, shifted aside or killed, water drops to be avoided or blocked with vines, and crows. Crows have, frustratingly, discovered the third dimension – and as such are completely unaffected by your vines.

    There are also two kinds of breakable blocks. Cracked blocks can be destroyed with Ivy’s spin attack (flick her with a vine like flicking something with a rubber band – we must try that with a real baby bird) or with the boulders found in some levels. Both techniques can also kill rats, as can knocking them into spikes; though only boulders – or the ‘star cookies’ which temporarily grant Ivy invincibility – can kill crows. You will also come across the disingenuously named Unbreakable Blocks, which can be broken with a boulder.

    In addition to this each level contains ten red feathers, and herein the difficulty lies. Each level is very short; the time limit is only 300 seconds, which is more than enough to reach the goal (a podium which awards points depending on how high you land Ivy). Try to collect all of the fiendishly placed feathers in some of the later levels however, and suddenly that time limit is all too short – especially when you find yourself not only testing your reactions to grab the feather a hair’s breadth from an enemy or spike, but taking a path that leads away from the goal.

    Naka created a picture book to accompany the game, and as such the graphics have a wonderful hand-drawn children’s story style. You may not find the sound quite so charming, as the 100+ levels only have a handful of music tracks between them. A shame as for as long as you can tolerate it, the music adds to the ethereal atmosphere that permeates the entire game.

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    You need to be sharp to succeed in this game. Ho ho ho.

    The atmosphere is strengthened still further by gameplay itself. The times you lead Ivy by drawing a vine underneath her as she runs have a completely unique effect; you feel as though you are guiding and caring for this bird in a tactile way that is truly remarkable.

    Ivy the Kiwi? is not without problems, however. In itself, the three vine limit is a good idea – but the lack of a way to manually delete vines is not. You’ll sometimes find that in a panic you’ll have drawn a vine that is useless, simply in the way or, worse, causes problems rather than solves them. The only way to get rid of a vine is to keep drawing new ones until it disappears, resulting in times when you’ll draw vines almost off-screen to avoid creating more problems. This forces you to be even more careful and aware of what you’re drawing, which is no bad thing; but it’s still a slightly perplexing design decision.

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    Water good game this is.

    The biggest issue is longevity. Initially the game gives you 50 levels (ten Chapters with five levels each), and we finished these in four hours – with 60 to 75% of the red feathers in our proverbial cap. You’re then given the chance to play through the game in ‘bonus’ mode, this time with more hazards and a hidden key in each level that must be collected in order to access the goal. We can at least say that you’ll have enjoyed the levels so much the first time round, you’ll enjoy playing these remixed versions.

    You can also play cooperatively, a great idea which works very well – but one which makes the game even easier. Not only do you have the benefit of two people working together, but you can now have six vines at once instead of three. In addition, there are specially created split screen race levels for up to four players, where everyone can draw on their competitors’ screen to make things difficult; joyous chaos.

    Once the main game has been done (twice) the only reasons to go back are to mop up the red feathers you missed, to try to beat your high scores, and the ‘Trial’ where you attempt to finish each level in the fastest possible time – while also collecting all ten feathers. With no online leaderboards however you’re only competing against yourself. How much incentive that provides is for you to decide.

    What we have here is a unique and addictive experience that’s sadly over too quickly. We promise you this however; for as long as it lasts you, Ivy the Kiwi? will make you fall in love with it – whether you want it to or not.


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    Written by Luke K

    Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He’s the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you’ll find something he’s written in there.

    Luke doesn’t have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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