If you’re unlucky enough to be male, Ivy The Kiwi? probably isn’t the kind of game you’d want to admit to playing. Depending on the kind of company you keep, the mere mention of its name will most likely be met with snorts of derision.
As unbearably cute as it sounds, Ivy The Kiwi? is a puzzle game with the ambience of a children’s book – its central character, a chick so young she’s barely hatched out of her egg, is on a mission to find her mother and her identity (hence the question mark in the title) and must traverse a series of pastel-hued worlds filled with spikes, malevolent rats and other hazards.
The creation of Yuji Naka, best known as the designer behind Sonic The Hedgehog, Ivy The Kiwi? is one of those rare games that makes proper use of the Wii remote. Like Kirby: Canvas Curse on the DS, the player has no direct control over Ivy herself – if allowed to, she’ll walk mindlessly from left to right, reversing direction if she bumps into a wall, and falling to oblivion if she strays too close to a pit full of spikes.
To guide Ivy along the correct path, the Wii remote is used to draw vines across the screen, which can act as temporary platforms over the aforementioned spiked pits or, by holding down the Z button, can be used as a catapult to flick Ivy up in the air.
This latter technique has all kinds of uses that become steadily more apparent as the levels become more complicated. While airborne, Ivy acts as a projectile, smashing through bricks and knocking rodent enemies off the screen with a satisfying squeak.
To add to the challenge, only three vines can be stretched across the screen at one time – draw a fourth, and the first one fades out. In terms of mechanics, that’s it – Ivy’s concept is no more difficult to grasp than the average Flash game, its mixture of puzzles and platforming gently taxing rather than infuriatingly difficult.
The game’s central objective is exactly like Lemmings – guide Ivy to the exit, and it’s onto the next, slightly more challenging area. A secondary task, which involves collecting all the feathers on each stage, adds longevity, while those with a genuinely competitive streak can attempt to complete each area in the shortest time possible.
It’s the quality of Ivy’s level design, and the beautiful simplicity of its controls, that make it such a joy to play. With a little practise, ushering the hapless protagonist through the game’s 100 levels becomes second nature.
Despite its overall polish, Ivy The Kiwi? isn’t without its faults. Draw a vine in the wrong place, and you’ll find yourself frantically drawing more vines to get rid of the first, errant one – it’s not a game-breaking issue, but it lacks the finesse displayed elsewhere, and the ability to dismiss the vines with a shake of the Wii remote, say, would have been a more elegant solution.
There are moments, too, where the (admittedly very pretty) pencil crayon backgrounds make some hazards difficult to see, and it’s all too easy to miss an inbound rat among the vines and hand-drawn trees.
These minor annoyances are more than outweighed by the quality of Ivy The Kiwi?’s production and sheer charm, and the game’s blend of platforming and puzzle elements are a comforting reference back to a more innocent age of 8- and 16-bit gaming.
Ivy The Kiwi? isn’t the sort of game you should admit to playing if you want to maintain your macho façade, but as a diversion between Halo: Reach or Black Ops sessions, it’s a heart-warming, guilty pleasure.