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Ivy the Kiwi? review

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Posted by: David Sanchez

Gamezone Review Rating 8.0 Great
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With so many big names such as Metroid: Other M, Sonic the Hedgehog 4, and Halo taking up a huge chunk of the gaming spotlight, it’s easy to overlook the more obscure releases out there. Ivy the Kiwi? is a title that many gamers out there may overlook, and it’s a shame, too, because this engaging platformer by the legendary Yuji Naka, programmer behind the original Sonic the Hedgehog, is addictive, creative, heartwarming, and a crazy amount of fun.

Following the exploits of the titular Ivy, Ivy the Kiwi? is a story about a newborn kiwi who has fallen from her nest and separated from her mother. Distressed, the hatchling sets out to find her beloved mama. With the eggshell still stuck to her body, young Ivy takes off running, prepared to take on the worst to get home.

What stands out about Ivy the Kiwi? initially is its accessibility. The moment you pick up the game and start playing, you should begin to get the hang of it and should get hooked almost immediately. The design of the game is simple: Help Ivy get through 50 stages by drawing vines onscreen to keep her from falling down pitfalls, hitting spikes, or getting hit by raindrops. This is an on-rails game, and Ivy runs on her own, so you have to stay alert and draw those vines. You can draw three vines on the screen at once. After you draw a fourth vine, the first disappears. You can draw these vines in any direction you want, and you can use them as a slingshot to catapult Ivy onto higher ground, through cracked blocks, and into enemies. It’s a simple mechanic, but it's very useful and entertaining.

Stages start out simple enough and feature straightforward designs early on. As you progress, however, the game’s levels become more complex, more involving, and almost puzzle-like in their design. So while you may not struggle early in the game, you’ll find yourself dealing with a number of obstacles and enemies after a few levels. Admittedly, a slight element of frustration pops up every now and then, but Ivy the Kiwi? never feels cheap or unfair. Just keep at it, and you’ll get through that tough level.

If your goal is simply to get through the 50 story mode levels and see the game’s ending, you’re likely to complete Ivy the Kiwi? in a short amount of time. If you take the time to seek out the 10 red feathers that each stage holds, though, Ivy the Kiwi? quickly becomes a far longer affair and can take anywhere between 4-5 hours to clear. And even though that may not be a very long amount of time in and of itself, there’s more to this package’s overall value, because you can replay previously cleared stages and collect medals for beating them in a short amount of time. If that’s not enough, beating the game once unlocks a bonus mode where each of the game’s stages is altered to feature more dangers. There are even two multiplayer modes that are nice additions and really round out this package.

Ivy the Kiwi? features a beautiful stylized look. The game definitely works to the DS’s strengths and offers up an endearing game that looks like a hand-drawn storybook. The basic look stays constant in each of the game’s stages, but there are subtle touches here and there that manage to breathe a different aura in the game’s 10 worlds. The sound design is equally charming, with themes that range from cheerful to mischievous to hopeful. The look and sound of Ivy the Kiwi? are, for all intents and purposes, just as much a part of the experience as the gameplay itself.

It’s a shame that so many games such as Ivy the Kiwi? go unrecognized by gamers. The fact that this title is seeing limited marketing—most retailers don’t have it in-store –also keeps it from gaining the exposure it deserves. In that sense, Ivy the Kiwi? is like an album by an obscure rock band. You won’t find it at Best Buy or Target; you’ll either stumble upon it somewhere down the line or gain an interest in it after hearing of it through word of mouth.

Ivy the Kiwi? may be simple in its design, but it’s an engrossing title. Even after you beat the game, you’ll want to revisit the game’s beautiful worlds and guide Ivy to the goal again and again. It’s the type of game that you find yourself playing for a couple of hours late at night when you can’t sleep or during the day right before going to school or work. Ivy the Kiwi? is a unique experience that is easy to get into and hard to stop playing.

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