Ivy the Kiwi? is a game which necessitates a hands-on demo. Players who simply watch a gameplay video will likely have a similar reaction to my (hands-off) E3 impression: “cool concept, but this could get tedious very quickly.” After all, each of the game’s stages is based around an extremely simple mechanic- assisting the protagonist in reaching a winner’s podium at the far right end of every level.
Yet, once players actually begin using a Wiimote to influence the trajectory of a diminutive chick searching for its mother, tedium rarely visits. Most likely, gamers will feel the familiar tug of coercion, coaxing them to play one more stage. With just two ways to induce Ivy, the title recalls the inspired action/puzzle hybrids of an elapsed console generation.
Like the disposable stars of DMA Design’s Lemmings, Ivy is rarely stationary, shifting directions when the hatchling encounters an obstacle. Using the IR functionality of the Wiimote, gamers may draw up to three elongated vines on the screen, which allow the protagonist to walk over spike-filled pits. More commonly, the vines allow Ivy to ascend cliffs and staircases, as the shell-covered chick lacks the ability to jump or fly. Once a third vine is placed, previous strands disappear, allowing errant pathways to become easily removed. Additionally, players may pull on each of the vines to slingshot Ivy into the air. Once the protagonist becomes airborne, her timid demeanor departs- allowing the fledgling to break through cracked blocks and eliminate any foes she comes into contact with.
Ivy is a remarkably fragile creature; contact with any of the game’s ubiquitous spikes or enemies require players to restart the current stage. Luckily, there’s relief in the predictable routes of each foe- from the mice which scurry along horizontal pathways to falling water droplets, each hazard is as lethal as it is conventional. While Ivy the Kiwi? sporadically evoked an eruption of expletives, the game’s difficulty level never become prohibitive. However, completionists compelled to find the ten bonus feathers hidden in each level may feel otherwise.
Along with the game’s ten sets of five missions, there’s an additional fifty extra-challenging bonus missions; offering a healthy amount of content. Once beaten, each of the stages becomes unlocked for the game’s Trials mode, where players can attempt to beat their best times. A multiplayer component splits up the screen, tasking each competitor to race to each stages finish. Since players may draw vines on any part of the screen to hinder opponents, matches become a heated, but convoluted, affair.
Ivy the Kiwi?‘s visuals are undeniably charming, with a hand drawn aesthetic which recalls an antiquated storybook. Sadly, this graphical richness isn’t matched by variety- the game’s drab browns and greens may disappoint gamers accustomed to the rich color palettes of most contemporary diversions. The game’s sonic accompaniment features a number of graceful pieces, which retain their elegance even after multiple listens.
Drawing from the same muse which inspired Kirby: Canvas Course, Ivy the Kiwi? is a throwback to when a game’s premise was built upon a single, solidly-built mechanic. For those that lived through (or can appreciate) that era, Ivy offers a gratifying experience, which charms players with a ‘just one more stage’ mentality. In an age where multi-kill perks and combo juggles rule the day, Ivy is a delightful reprieve.