No matter how many video game titles Yuji Naka creates, he'll likely always be best remembered for his work during his days at Sega's Sonic Team. Even despite his new development company Prope's greater emphasis on creating video games with a much broader scope and appeal, there's obviously still a lot of desire among his fans to see him bring another platforming experience to life. With the release of his newest creation, Ivy the Kiwi?, not only is he once again doing what he does best, he's also doing it with the same innovative approach that made his Sonic titles such beloved classics.
In Ivy the Kiwi?, you're given the task of guiding your tiny bird to the podium at the end of each level. Since Ivy will continue walking until she bumps into an object or wall, you'll have to safely guide her along using vines that you draw with your Wii Remote by holding down the A button. You can use these as a walkway to steer her away from dangers such as rats and spikes, or you can flick up the vine as you draw it in order to bounce her up into the air for a short time. You'll even learn how to pull back and slingshot Ivy using with these vines by pressing and holding the B button. It's this simple yet extremely playable method of control that will provide the majority of the challenges throughout each level.
There are basically two modes in the single player portion of the game. Main mode is where the story will play out and allows you to take on each level in a specifically laid out order. There are five levels per area with ten areas in total to take on. Of course once you've beaten the game, you'll unlock a brand new set of surprises to enjoy, many even far more challenging. As you unlock levels via the Main Mode, you'll then be able to go back and play them individually via the Stage Trials mode. Here you can not only try to achieve a faster time, thus earning a better medal, but also collect all of the feathers, something you might have missed the first time around.
If you're feeling a little competitive and want to mix things up a bit you can take on the Multiplayer mode. In this game the screen will be split up to accommodate up to four players in a race to collect medals or reach the podium at the end of the level. This mode generally plays out quite similarly to the regular levels, but one interesting twist is the way the game will allow you to draw vines on other player's section of screen in order to hinder them. It can make for some interesting matches, not to mention some hurt feelings if you run into an overly aggressive player. Still, it's a great diversion from the main game if you've got some additional players on hand.
It's remarkable how the developers have been able to create such a wildly playable gaming experience using such a simple and intuitive gameplay mechanic. While it might take you a few minutes to get a feel for drawing and snapping the vines using the Wii Remote, you'll soon find it perfectly natural and an extremely enjoyable way of controlling the action onscreen. The Wii Remote controls aren't quite as precise as those found on the DS touchscreen, but they do offer a little more range of motion at times. Given the various modes of play and sheer number of levels to take on, players of all ages and skill levels should find plenty to enjoy throughout the adventure, not to mention plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more.
The hand-drawn visuals look like they just stepped out of a fairy tale storybook, and you couldn't ask for a more delightful way to carry along the light-hearted adventure. These captivating backdrops also do a nice job of making the foregrounds really jump out at you as you make your way through each of the game's levels. When you toss in the colourful cast of characters and enemies you'll encounter throughout your adventure, you end up with a visual presentation that's as adorable as the main character that it chronicles.
Of course, you can't have a complete setting without some impressive musical tracks to go along with them and the developers have come up with some extremely solid tunes to further carry the whimsical theme. While the musical tracks are used throughout each of the game's five levels in a particular area, they're quite lengthy and given how catchy they are, you certainly won't mind hearing them for extended periods of time. You'll also be treated to a few sweet sound effects that round out an audio package that's every bit as captivating as every other facet of the game.
There's no denying that Ivy the Kiwi? is absolutely overflowing with charm and personality. Whether it's the endearing storybook visuals, the innovative gameplay mechanics, or the heart-warming story unfolding around it all, Ivy the Kiwi? has a compelling way of pulling you into its adventure and not letting go. And with over 100 levels to tackle, not to mention a wide array of replay value, you're likely to find that the game's biggest challenge lies in trying to drag yourself away from it.