Worth two in the bush.
Ivy the Kiwi? is a rare find. Like the endangered bird after which it is named, the game is hard to classify. Somewhere between a platformer and an action title, with a little maze thrown into the mix, it looks odd. But like most mutts, the overall result is really cute and even-tempered. Your quirky protagonist never disappoints. Just like the elusive bird, its unique approach to gameplay deserves study.
[image1]In the lighthearted storybook opening, Ivy is a newly hatched kiwi. Before she even breaks completely out of her eggshell, she realizes her mother is missing and runs off to find her. From this point, we are plunged into her world and the game begins. Ivy runs and runs, moving ever to the right, until she comes upon an obstacle that she cannot cross. When that happens, Ivy turns around and runs the other way. Ever aloof to dangers in her path, your job is to help her find her errant mother. (Fun fact: It is usually the male kiwi's job to incubate the egg.)
While it has all the earmarks of a maze platformer, Ivy The Kiwi? uses a novel approach. Instead of controlling the character, as in Mario Brothers or Pac-Man, you manipulate the environment. Ivy never stops. To keep her moving in the right direction, you must place vines in such a way that the bird can clear obstacles. There is more than one way to do this. You can guide Ivy along gently, drawing out the vines to usher the bird into safety. Other times you may have to lead the kiwi forcibly - an avian turned projectile in a pinball game of survival.
Placing the vines is fairly simple and makes the game accessible to even the most novice of players. Press the 'A' button to start the vine, then keep holding it to stretch it out. The trigger button allows you to grab a vine and use it as a slingshot. The vines can even be used to block Ivy from running into spikes or falling into water. Turning Ivy's constant movement into an advantage instead of a hindrance is the key to the game. You will have to perfect your vine work to see the game to its end.
[image2]Along the way, you can pick up feathers and stars. They act as the coins and power pellets of the game, and add an extra layer of challenge and reward for those who want to find them. Ivy The Kiwi? lets you enjoy the familiar while marveling at the unusual. (Fun fact: The kiwi is the only bird with nostrils at the end of its long beak.)
Since the little bird never stops moving, obstacles become an ever present threat. You'll encounter spikes, rats, lethally cold water droplets, and purple birds. All will kill Ivy at the slightest touch. As the levels progress, more and more obstacles will be thrown in the bird's path to the point that Ivy will have to scoop up a boulder to overcome some of the nastier ones. (Fun fact: Rich in Vitamin C, the kiwi fruit grows on vines.)
While there is action aplenty, the game never feels frantic and that is partly due to the artistic design. The music starts off innocuous enough, like something heard in an elevator. In more difficult levels, the music turns into an epic ballad. Similarly, the background takes on deeper hues. The whimsical artwork keeps you in the storybook world and is very reminiscent of the watercolor illustrations in A.A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh.
[image3]A multiplayer option lets up to four players race through a split-screen course. It's quick and competitive, everything you want in a multiplayer challenge. It's interesting to see how different players handle the obstacles. While the game never works you up into a frenzy - that's just not its style - watching multiple birds navigate the dangers of the level does turn comical. (Fun fact: The kiwi lays the biggest egg in proportion to its size of any bird in the world, and most kiwi hens lay only one egg per season.)
Final fun fact: No birds are harmed in the making of Kiwi shoe polish. But don't expect the same for little Ivy. Although all 50 levels can be reasonably completed in a day, you may lose a few chicks along the way. Fortunately, you have infinite restarts, which takes the sting out of losing. Ivy the Kiwi? is engaging enough for young players, and when things get too hard for the chickadees in your nest, the grownups will be more than happy to pick up the remote and finish things up.