With so many platforming games out there, it's nice when one comes along that's quite different from what's expected. And that's the case with Ivy the Kiwi? a platforming game where you don't directly control the protagonist of the game, Ivy. Instead, it's your job to guide her safely through the levels by drawing vines. It's a novel concept, but it can lead to some frustration at times.
Ivy is a confused little soul. After hatching from her egg, she finds that her mother is nowhere to be found and, without removing herself from said egg, she decides the best course of action is to just walk until she finds some answers. That's pretty much the entire premise of the game too, as after the original explanation of Ivy's predicament fades, you won't see anything else until completing the game.
So, as previously mentioned, you don't directly control Ivy. Instead, as she's mindlessly traversing through levels at her own pace, it's up to you to guide her. This can be done by drawing vines with the Wii Remote and then manipulating their direction until the drawing is complete. This means that you can influence her direction greatly, as for example, if you make a vine to the side of her, then bring it up below her in a clockwise or anti-clockwise motion, she'll be swept up in the air.
Influencing Ivy's direction of travel is only one aspect of the game though, as vines can also be used for other tasks, such as protecting Ivy. You can create platforms above dangerous spikes or enemies and you can also use the vines to protect Ivy from dangerous drops of water.
The concept is actually rather fun, but it's also quite frustrating sometimes. You can only draw three vines at a time and you can't get rid of vines unless you draw more, there's no way to simply remove them all in one go. The colours do fade, so you vaguely know which is going to be removed next, but this doesn't necessarily help when you're frantically trying to draw more so Ivy doesn't walk straight into a wall of spikes.
Another area for frustration is when the game requires you to control other elements with the vines as well, like boulders. Boulders are necessary to destroy black blocks, which cannot be destroyed by Ivy herself. However, boulders can only be pushed by Ivy, or manipulated by you. The problem here is that the boulders are stationary and Ivy isn't. This means that affecting the boulder in a certain way could potentially do the opposite to Ivy and if she moves, so does the camera, leaving the boulder behind. It's not a huge deal, but it highlights that the game can be finicky sometimes. Another example would be how vertical vine walls must be in order to trigger Ivy to turn around.
The challenge of the game certainly ramps up as you progress through the game and despite looking like it, the ending levels certainly aren't designed with the casual gamer in mind. Each of the levels introduces a new element of gameplay to the equation, but most of them appear in the form of hazards. The most annoying of which are probably birds, which fly up and down or left and right and water drops, which fall from the ceiling.
One of the main selling points of the game though is its art style. It's very cute and adorable, constantly showing off its animated roots. It lends itself well to the gameplay and the pace of the game is just right. There are also some pieces of music which are a joy to listen to, but some of them are quite bland too. One thing that is annoying about the presentation is the voice of Ivy and listening to the sound she makes when she dies will get very tedious, very quickly.
Completing the game takes around 2 to 3 hours, but there is replay value there for those who want it. Each level has 10 feathers which can be collected and they're usually quite awkward to obtain. There are also scores associated with almost everything and upon completing the game it's possible to go back in order to try and beat all these scores and collect all the feathers.
On top of this, multiplayer is also available. This comes in the form of both competitive and co-operative. The competitive is fairly chaotic, as up to four people can play the game at the same time, trying to get their Ivy to the end while also causing havoc for the others. The co-operative is more sensible, as everyone joins together to try and help the main player succeed.
Ivy the Kiwi? is a fun little game that offers a decent enough challenge. However, it's not the longest game around and while the controls are often enjoyable, they can also be frustrating at times. There is multiplayer there for those who're interested and the puzzle element of the gameplay will appeal to those who want to challenge themselves. Worth checking out for anyone who wants a quick fix.