Review: Telekinesis Kyle is fun, but it can't rise above the mucky-muck
Telekinesis Kyle wants to be both Portal and Cut the Rope, squeezing a story-driven adventure and a collection of puzzle levels into a mobile, indie-developed package. It falls short of both of those aspirations, but you can’t deny the heart that went into it. Have you ever played a game where you can feel the fingerprints of its developers in every clever touch or unfortunate flaw? TK is that kind of game. It’s hard to get too mad at, though it isn’t without some glaring issues.
You are Kyle, a young boy with telekinetic powers, sent to a school for the gifted that’s quickly revealed to be a secret lab. Using your abilities, you must survive over 25 puzzle levels and save the day. The game has both polygonal cutscenes and comic-style sequences that play every few levels. The story, despite its similarities to Psychonauts and its Portal-esque setting, isn’t very clever or funny -- “cute” may be the operative word here. The plot context is welcome on mobile devices, though, where story is typically relegated to an app store description.
The gameplay involves getting Kyle to the exit of each level. Sometimes the door is closed, requiring you to find a switch or button. Either way, there are obstacles in the form of spike pits, lasers, fire, and more, all requiring Kyle’s telekinetic powers to deal with. The controls are intuitive -- left and right buttons move Kyle, while touching and dragging an object lets you move it around. Kyle can grab multiple objects simultaneously, floating them in the air to create bridges and platforms. Carry too many objects and Kyle’s power will run out, forcing him to drop everything.
Over the course of a couple hours or gameplay, Telekinesis Kyle throws a lot of puzzle variety at players. Unlike most mobile puzzle games, where a mechanic is introduced and then stretched thin over several levels, TK moves quickly. Around halfway through, things start to get really interesting, as fire, water, ropes, and pipes are introduced. Some puzzles come completely out of left field, asking players to think in a way they haven’t had to yet. In that sense the game has more in common with puzzle platformers like Limbo, Braid, and Portal than Cut the Rope or Angry Birds.
What is reminiscent of mobile puzzle games is the scoring system. Each level scores you based on time and objects lifted, with a score and star rating out of four. There’s some replay value in getting four stars on all the levels or competing on leaderboards, but for the most part once you’ve completed the game there’s little reason to go back.
Beyond that, I’m not sure how much time you’d want to spend going for perfect scores anyway, as the controls in Telekinesis Kyle can be imprecise. For most actions, everything is quite simple and intuitive and it feels good to manipulate objects while moving Kyle. However, when the number of objects on screen starts to ramp up, the chances for wrong moves increase. When it gets hectic, it can be easy to make Kyle walk into danger or drop objects when you’re trying to move the camera. Drop a key object into a bottomless pit on accident and you’ll be restarting the level. These issues will be less apparent on larger screens, so if you have a tablet or iPad, that’s going to be the ideal way to play Telekinesis Kyle.
On top of that, the game can be straight-up glitchy. Objects can fall through the environment or get stuck, and the rope physics are closer to “rubber band on cocaine” physics. It’s never ruinous, as the “Restart Level” button is a touch away, but it can be frustrating when things go wrong multiple times in a single level.
Telekinesis Kyle is rough around the edges. The controls could be smoother, the level design could be more polished, and the story could be snappier. That said, I appreciated this quick adventure for valuing my time. I was challenged on more than one occasion, but the game never dragged out a mechanic longer than necessary. Considering it can be had for a few bucks, that puts it ahead of at least a few mobile puzzle games I can think of.
[Reviewed on Android]