After spending years helping Sega create some of its most popular console releases during the Mega Drive and Saturn eras, Yuji Naka decided it was time to form his own development studio. His main goal was to create gaming experiences that appealed to a much broader audience. No better title could sum up this goal more perfectly than his newest creation, Ivy the Kiwi?. Now XSEED is releasing a miniature version of the game on Nintendo's DSiWare service and despite having the 50 bonus levels and multiplayer removed, the main 50-level game itself remains intact and as charming as ever.
Your goal in Ivy the Kiwi? is to guide Ivy safely to the podium at the end of each level. Since Ivy basically runs around on her own and cannot be controlled directly, you'll have to draw vines using the DSi stylus to guide her through all of the many obstacles and enemies strung throughout each level, ranging from menacing rats to razor sharp spikes.
There are a number of ways to use the vines, including simply as a walkway for Ivy to run on or to bounce Ivy into the air by rotating the vines in an upward direction. You'll even be able to pull back on the vines and then let them snap to send Ivy shooting into the air. This manoeuvre can be used not only to take out enemies, but also to break certain blocks in your way. The game limits you to three vines on screen at once, so you'll have to carefully manage your use of them if you're to successfully guide Ivy through some of the game's trickier sections.
The Main Game mode is basically the story mode of the game and offers up ten different areas to tackle, each containing five levels. There are ten Red Feathers to collect in each level, not to mention points to be earned based on the time it takes you to finish a level. If you feel like going back and trying to collect feathers you missed or earn a faster finishing time, the game offers up a Stage Select where you can replay any levels you've already unlocked in the Main Game mode.
The simple and intuitive controls make Ivy the Kiwi? easy for anyone to pick up and play, yet provide the flexibility to offer enough accuracy for experienced gamers. The drawing and snapping of vines via the DSi touchscreen is extremely responsive and works quite fluidly, feeling more precise at times than even the Wii Remote. Toss in the added replay value of collecting feathers and finishing levels with faster times and you'll certainly never be at a loss for things to do throughout your adventure.
The storybook scenery does an amazing job of bringing the light-hearted fairy tale world to life onscreen. Each area looks like it was pulled straight from a canvas, and with ten different locales to travel through there's never a dull moment from a visual standpoint. Even the characters and enemies you'll encounter during your quest are nicely detailed and smoothly animated. It might have been nice to see a bit more variety and detail in the actual blocks that make up the foregrounds of the levels, but it's difficult to complain much given how wonderful everything else looks.
As enchanting as the visual presentation is, the developers have also managed to craft a musical score that somehow perfectly captures the endearing charm of each area you'll visit. Even with the tunes alternating throughout the ten areas of the game, they never get the slightest bit repetitive or grating. There are a handful of cute sound effects to add even more spirit to the game's sugary sweet theme as well, but in the end it's the game's soundtrack that shines the brightest.
Ivy the Kiwi? is the perfect example of the type of enjoyable and refreshing gaming experience that can be created when a developer isn't afraid to try something a little different. Not only does the game absolutely ooze storybook charm, but its simple touchscreen controls are easy enough for gamers of all ages to pick up and play, yet challenging enough to give even seasoned platformer fans a serious run for their money. If you were hesitant to pay full price for the retail title but still curious, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better bargain than this 500 Point DSiWare version.