Originally finding a home on Xbox Live Arcade, NinjaBee's A Kingdom for Keflings charmed players with its colourful worlds, fun simulation gameplay and creative use of Microsoft's then-new Live Avatars. Six years after that début, the gnome-like beings make their first appearance on a Nintendo platform with this re-release of the 2010 sequel A World of Keflings. Thankfully, these little guys and gals haven't aged a day since then — players experiencing them for the first time will find a stimulating sim filled with adorable characters and refined gameplay, while gamers familiar with the Keflings' past escapades will find they fit right at home on Wii U.
A World of Keflings is a simulation game, more specifically one centred on micromanagement. It's equal parts SimCity and Populous, blending construction with resource gathering and some very light RPG elements. Playing as a giant version (to the tiny Keflings, anyway) of whatever Mii is connected to your Nintendo Network ID account, you'll be tasked with solving problems in three separate kingdoms. Solving these problems usually follows a pretty simple formula: use the Keflings to collect materials around each area, use those materials with blueprints to construct new buildings, and finally put your Keflings to work in the different building types to bring new materials and skills - rinse and repeat with the occasional special event thrown in for good measure.
Unlike a lot of other sim games of this ilk, however, things are kept relatively low-pressure; players are encouraged to maximize the efficiency of their workers and buildings, but there's no real consequence to learning at your own pace. In fact, what makes the game so thoroughly enjoyable is its accessibility - all the individual factors that can make or break an experience like this are handled with aplomb, allowing both experienced sim gamers and more casual fans of the genre to get in on the action.
Control and interface are two things no simulation game worth its salt can get wrong, and A World of Keflings nails both of these with minimal fuss. For example, selecting a Kefling and assigning it a job is as easy as walking over to it and pressing a designated button; the Kefling's hat will then change to an icon representative of its current career path. It can occasionally feel confusing if you're trying to pick out a specific worker when there are many nearby, but the ability to target and cycle through them does a good job of alleviating this issue.
It's also extremely easy to build things thanks to the blueprint system: equipping the blueprint of a particular building type will place a small icon next to all the materials you need to make it. Once you've got one of the materials in hand, a glowing spot will appear on the ground where you're building to indicate where that item needs to go in relation to all the others. Even better, you can initiate construction right from the Wii U GamePad, where all the building types as well as your available materials are listed. It's all very intuitive without holding your hand too much, leaving the real challenge of the game to be how efficient you can make each kingdom.
With the sheer number of items, jobs, and buildings available to you, it could get overwhelming trying to keep track of everything; thankfully, A World of Keflings makes it a point to introduce mechanics so that each new idea builds off the last one you learned. The game starts off slowly, limiting you to one kingdom, but smartly opens up not long after you've learned the ropes; within a matter of hours you'll be able to travel between all three areas, building, assigning jobs, and experiencing a myriad of bizarre, colourful and downright adorable characters. If there is a problem to be identified with the gameplay here, it's probably that its routines and formula aren't particularly suited to long play sessions or the most hardcore of sim gamers; in many ways, the lack of urgency and simplistic design makes things more accessible, but there will no doubt be more experienced players left wanting for more customization options and the possibility of failure.
Luckily, the game's art and sound design are two things everyone can enjoy. The cast of lovable Keflings really make playing the game a delight, while each kingdom they reside in has its own colourful flair (icy, grassy, and desert-y). They're pretty funny little fellas, too; their dialogue is quirky and well-written, especially when bantering back and forth among themselves. What really seals the deal on the game's aesthetic appeal is the detail, such as the gradual changing of seasons in the forest kingdom that this reviewer found to be a particularly nice effect. Of course, the graphics aren't really going to wow anyone — it's an indie effort from 2010 and truthfully hasn't aged all that well in this respect — but they remain perfectly functional and charming despite this. Perhaps best of all, the soundtrack's surprisingly good tunes range from energetic to soothing and make for the perfect background music to this engaging simulation.
A World of Keflings is video game comfort food. It's an inviting, ready-to-pick-up-and-play simulation with adorable characters, great sound design, and solid controls that make good use of the Wii U GamePad. It may not revolutionize the genre, and the graphics may seem a little dated, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable micro-adventure that offers a lot of bang for your buck.