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Ivy the Kiwi? (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Ivy the Kiwi? on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

When someone mentions gaming masters such as Sakamoto-san (Kirby, Super Smash Bros.) or Miyamoto-san (Zelda, Mario) in connection to a new game, the gaming community can’t help but get slightly hot under the collar. The effect is similar when creator of Sonic The Hedgehog Yuji Naka steps forward with a new title, especially when said game is a platformer like Ivy The Kiwi?. Far removed from the blue blur’s characteristics, Ivy the Kiwi? offers a completely different style of play, one that would only be possible with direct, touch or cursor-based control (there is also a Wii version). How does this new game stand up in the world of platformers? Let’s have a walk on the grapevine, shall we?

You take control of Ivy, a little bird who has hatched and found herself alone with no motherly figure present. Distraught by this, Ivy sets out in search of her parent over more than a hundred perilous levels filled with spikes, rats and other beasties. Ivy runs steadily and automatically across the levels from the get-go and it’s the player’s job to guide her by drawing vines to help her navigate, á la Kirby Power Paintbrush or Yoshi Touch and Go, in order to stop her from dropping to her doom, at the hands of enemies or otherwise. Drawing vines is rather inventive too, and they have many properties that allow you to control Ivy’s forward momentum with ease. When she is walking across them you are able to pull back on the vine and use it as a slingshot to propel Ivy across large gaps and cover large distances; it also allows her to take out enemies, as otherwise she is fairly defenceless. The vines can also be used to flick the chick by drawing a vine but not releasing until she is upon it, swinging it upwards when she comes to the end of the tether, allowing her to jump short distances. When all these abilities are used in conjunction, you can find your way through even the trickiest of levels - though not with ease, mind you.

Ivy the Kiwi?’s level design, like its controls, remains fairly simple, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The easiest way to explain the layout is a cage of blocks, with pits, jump spots and secret alcoves adjoining that progress forward at the rate Ivy does. This alone may not seem particularly inventive, but can get devilish pretty quickly. However, the natural progression of the game more than prepares you for this, as the difficulty of the levels slowly ramps up without the player noticing too much. It’s only when you go back to the earlier levels for the collectables that you realise how far you have come as you complete them with amazing ease. Speaking of collectables, there are ten leaves to snap up throughout each level, but they are not needed to progress through the story whatsoever; the only requirement is that you reach the podium at the end. Only the most astute of players will be bothered to go back and collect all of the leaves, the ones that want that extra challenge and completion indicator next to their name.

Screenshot for Ivy the Kiwi? on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Ivy the Kiwi? also boasts a local multiplayer mode which focuses around two modes in which the player can battle it out with three others. First is a race to the podium, and second is a competition to see who can collect as many of the medals scattered throughout the levels, the winner being either the first person to collect all of them or whomever holds the most when the time runs out. There is also the ability to use DS download play for those who don’t actually own a copy of Ivy the Kiwi?. Whilst the multiplayer doesn’t have that much depth to it and may not totally hook you, it’s a funny little addition that brings an element of competition to the title.

However, there are some problems with Ivy the Kiwi?. First and foremost, the vine system. It works well for the most part, and the fact that you can only draw three vines at a time forces you to be strategic with your moves to get the most out of them. The problem comes when you are navigating tighter spaces, as you can often misdraw a vine. This is fine on titles such as Yoshi Touch and Go, as you can blow into the DS’ microphone to remove them - unfortunately there is no such feature in Ivy the Kiwi?. You cannot remove your drawn vines easily, and the only way to do so is to draw more vines to cause the others to disappear. Suffice to say this can become a real problem and can get quite frustrating if you are trying to get yourself out of a pit/trap/enemies’ clutches, and it’s just downright fiddly as you hit other vines you have drawn just to remove a previous one. The game’s visuals are another little snag, in that all the levels look similar with no variation on themes. That is not to say that the hand-painted watercolour style is bad by a long shot, but the repetition does get tiresome.

On the whole, Ivy the Kiwi? is a solid title. It is very easy to pick-up-and-play thanks to its simple controls, but the level design can become so devilishly tricky that it will have even the hardened gaming veterans stabbing at the screen in frustration. Due to this fact it is a bit of a Marmite title; you’ll either love it or hate it. It has more than enough to keep the player going with its hundred or so levels, each more challenging than the last, the musical score is soothing and never once gets repetitive. Ivy the Kiwi? is just different, and because of that, it works; it’s a good example of a developer who has made a risky jump, and it pays off wonderfully in its own charming, chirping way. If you are looking for something fresh to play before the 3DS comes out, look no further - you’ll be laughing your way through the early levels before cursing your way through to the end.

Screenshot for Ivy the Kiwi? on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Yuji Naka has definitely taken a walk on the wild side and jumped ship to try something completely different for Ivy the Kiwi?. A simple concept with simple controls matched with delightfully tricky gameplay, it’s tough, but so rewarding.

Graphics

The water colour style of the backgrounds and Ivy herself are really attractive and pleasant on the eye. However, the level design doesn’t change that dramatically during the ten areas that Ivy visits, and can often get repetitive.

Sound

Smooth melodies that fit the game perfectly and don’t ever feel repetitive, regardless of the fact that there are only ten variations of the original theme.

Value

The single player game alone is 100 + levels. Whilst some of these can be completed in a matter of minutes, others will take some nail biting. Add on top of that the amount of collectables throughout the levels and the multiplayer, and you’ve got yourself a pretty hefty title.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Ivy the Kiwi? isn’t the perfect game, but it breaks the mould by being different, and bringing with it some of the gaming styles that haven’t been seen since the launch of the DS console. If you are looking for something to boot up for a couple of minutes or a title that you want to sink into considerably, this little hatchling has both. Ivy the Kiwi? will satiate the appetites of both newcomers and veterans alike.

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04.03.2011

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Prope

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

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Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I like the DS game, but find I'm really nowhere near as quick with my reactions as I used to be, so it grew frustrating VERY quickly. The Wii version is even more of a b*stard on that front, since precision movements are required...even more so than Trauma Center it seems! Smilie

I'm intrigued why both download versions of this didn't make it to Europe as well. I *think* it was only the DSiWare mini-version that arrived, with the WiiWare one being blocked for some odd reason.

Cheers for the review, Cal Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
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