Isn't she cute?

Only getting a few minutes to play Ivy the Kiwi? at the recent E3 trade show in Los Angeles, it was difficult to get a good feel for what the games had to offer. While it was certainly fun getting to see them in action and having the gist of the gameplay fully explained, a part of me still wanted to be able to sit down and put them through their paces.

Lucky for us, the nice folks at XSEED were kind enough to send over preview builds of both the Wii and DS versions of the game and after putting several hours into each version, one thing stands immutably clear: Sonic creator Yuji Naka hasn't lost his magic touch.

The basic gameplay premise is quite simple. Your goal is to safely guide Ivy to a podium at the end of each level. While this might seem like a rather rudimentary objective, you'll soon find that there are a lot of hazards to navigate through, not to mention increasingly more intricate level designs as you progress further into the game. And since Ivy chooses to walk on her own, you'll have to draw vines to guide her along in order to maneuver the tricky levels and avoid the many dangers she'll encounter which range from small mice to larger birds of prey.

Snow is falling

Both the Wii and DS versions are basically identical with the main difference being the method of control. On the Wii version you'll use the Wii Remote pointer to draw and snap your vines, whereas on the DS release you'll use the system's touchscreen. Both work quite well, with each offering its own set of pluses and minuses. While the DS touchscreen offers up the more precise control, the Wii Remote features a separate use of the "A" and "B" buttons to control the drawing and snapping of the vines. You'll quickly find that the more you play the game, the more intuitive and natural the controls become. It will likely to come down to personal preference as to which control method you'll prefer to make use of during your quest. Of course for those who end up really enjoying the game, it might be worth it to pick up both games since the differing styles of play control end up offering two very different, yet equally rewarding, gaming experiences.

The game features 50 regular levels for you to tackle, and they become gradually more intricate and difficult as you progress through them. There's also a surprise that will be unlocked once you've beaten the game's original 50 levels. As a bonus, the game offers up a multiplayer mode that will allow you to play competitively against each other with up to four players tossed into the mix. This involves a race to the podium at the end of each level and can be quite frantic. The Wii version splits the screen for multiplayer play, whereas the DS version allows up to three other players to join in the fun via Download Play on their own DS systems.

Keep moving!

You can't help but be impressed with the way the developers have somehow been able to squeeze so much playability into such a simple gameplay system. It's also quite nice that you can go back and replay levels you've completed in order to attempt to better your finish times, not to mention collect any feathers you might have missed out on the first time around. There's almost a limitless amount of things to do within the game and the replay value will keep you coming back for more long after you've completed the initial adventure.

The visuals in both versions are also rather similar, although some of the special effects of the Wii version had to be cut in order to get the game running on the less powerful DS system. The lush storybook visuals really jump off of the screen and further enhance the game's fairy tale charm. The same can also be said of the rather endearing musical score you'll be treated to throughout the adventure. There's not a bad track in the bunch and the Wii and DS versions both sound equally impressive. It's clear that no corners were cut when the developers were putting the audio/visual presentation together and they really do compliment the action unfolding onscreen perfectly.

Birds of prey

Ivy the Kiwi? is absolutely chock full of whimsical charm and personality and offers up an amazing gameplay experience to go along with it. The game is easy enough for gamers of all ages to pick up and enjoy and with the hefty dose of replay value built right into the game, you'll never be at a loss for something to do. Not only that, but the game will only set you back a mere $20 for the DS version and $30 for the Wii version. Even at full price these two games would have been more than worth their weight in gold, but at these bargain prices, they're an absolute steal. If you can appreciate something a little different, this is a definitely a game that you need to put on your wish list.

There's a five level demo of the DS version of Ivy the Kiwi? now available on the Nintendo Channel for everyone to try out. It will be available for download until August 15th. And don't forget, the game hits North American retailers on August 24th.

We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank XSEED and ONE PR Studio for allowing us to preview these two games.