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Ivy the Kiwi? Mini - DSiWare Review

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Ivy the Kiwi? Mini

DSiWare | XSEED Games / Prope | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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30th October 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

In today's economy, having gaming as a hobby can be quite difficult. I'm sure you've experienced the same situation where you'd like to purchase a game as soon as it comes out (or shortly afterwards), but can't because you don't have enough funds. I have a feeling that Prope considered this possibility when they were developing this game. So to try to get the game into as many hands as possible, Prope and XSEED Games recently released Ivy the Kiwi? Mini on DSiWare. It's a clever marketing tactic, and an effective one at that.

    Ivy is the name of the star in this game, and you'll be guiding her through 10 chapters of levels as she tries to discover who she is. All she knows is that she's all alone, being the only bird that cannot fly, and she has a void inside her that she longs to fill by looking for her "Mama". Who her "Mama" actually is will be revealed by the end of the game, but along the way, you'll watch as Ivy encounters other animals who don't think so fondly of her. But contrary to the bullies, gossips and critics, you will almost certainly fall in love with this adorable character.

    Ivy may not have the gift of flight, but she can run - and fast! While she may not run at blistering speeds like our favourite hedgehog friend, she can certainly hold her own. What drives her is the excitement that will be realized upon finally meeting up with her Mama. Until then, Ivy will run blindly from left to right, and it's your job to guide her through each level so she can get around without running headlong into danger. Get her to the finish line and you can earn bonus points depending on where you land on the three-stair platform.

    To control her movements, you'll be using the stylus to draw vines to serve as platforms for her to run on. More than just that, vines can also be used to confine her within a space or prevent her from moving down a dangerous path. Ivy can be launched as a rocket upwards or from side-to-side simply by pulling back against a vine and releasing. If she's directly on top of or really close to it, she'll perform a spiral motion that can knock out enemies and pass through soft rocks. It's important to keep in mind that you can only have 3 vines in play at once, and this limitation sometimes forces you to think on the fly when there's danger nearby. Rest-assured, though, that these vines make the game fun to play.

Much of the deadly traps that could befall the giddy young chick lie in the obstacles found within each stage. This ultimately boils down to three different elements: spikes, water droplets and enemies. Regardless of whichever you come in contact with, both mean instant death as soon as she touches them. So it's important to be aware of them as you move along. Enemies aren't present at the start of the game, but as you journey to new lands, you'll find rats as well as birds that could potentially hinder your progress. Thankfully, her launch ability makes it so that Ivy isn't completely vulnerable. Plus, you can also use vines to send rats off in a different direction if you'd rather go that route. 

    There are 50 stages in all, or 5 levels per chapter. In each stage are a total of ten hidden feathers that can be collected. Collecting ten across any level will earn you an extra life. But beyond that, you can make it a goal to collect them all, adding a layer of replay value to the mix. In some cases, you'll find gold coins which take the place of collection 10 of these feathers and grant you an instant life. And sometimes you'll come across a Star power-up that will grant you invincibility for a short period of time. Otherwise, there are no additional items to speak of, creating a fairly pure and accessible game. 

    Each level has a distinct feel to it, with slightly varied background visuals and music. Ivy's quest basically boils down to themed towns, forests, and castles. Level designs follow the same structure all the way through, with little-to-no surprises in between. There are roughly two to five music tracks present in this game, and many of the levels in chapters 1 through 8 recycle tracks fairly regularly. It's only during the last two chapters that you get greeted to a new audio track. But still, a majority of them are nice to listen to and are a suitable fit for the game itself. The visual style is also very appealing. While the muddy colour palette may not be a hit with everyone, the texture creates a nice feel.

    The Main Menu has an elegant approach to it. The entire game is presented as a storybook lying on a wooden table. In the background, you'll hear a clock going, and a tune that resembles that of a music box. The entire presentation is well done in spite of the simplistic approach it presents itself to be. Along with that, Ivy the Kiwi? Mini carries a story that isn't fully developed. The only times you'll see cutscenes to advance the story are the very beginning and the very end. Soon after completing the final level, you'll get to see the entire story summarized in the form of a picture book. And seeing this warm tale unfold will actually change the appearance of the book on the Main Menu, much in the same vein as Sonic and the Secret Rings. 

Aside from the Main Game option, there's also a Stage Select that allows you to play any of the levels you visited and aim for a higher score or to collect all 10 of the orange feathers mentioned earlier. The Ranking option lists the best scores you achieved in going through all of the chapters, and this gets recorded once you complete your quest. There may not be an incredible amount of replay value, and you may not be able to do speed runs here, but there is stuff to come back to. 

    As you're no doubt already aware, this unique IP was actually created by the same man behind Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka. This is emphasized on the boxart for the retail version of this game, evidently to attract more attention to the title. In all honesty, there aren't many similarities to the Sonic games that would attract a fan of the franchise. The platforming elements here aren't as strong, and the action is kept to a minimal by comparison. But Ivy the Kiwi? still has its fun moments - just not as many as some of Sonic's endeavours. 

    Ivy the Kiwi? Mini is a bargain for the price it's listed at. The idea of bringing an abbreviated version of the game to downloadable platforms was a great one. In reality, someone may not feel motivated to look into purchasing the retail version, satisfied with the fix provided by this portable version. And that's understandable considering that there's not a lot of variety presented here. But if you find the game to be good fun, then you probably won't even care. Ivy the Kiwi? Mini comes highly recommended for DSi owners.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Use vines to control movement, a few enemies and traps, very accessible, feels pure with very few additional elements
Presentation 8/10 - Muddy colour palette, pleasing music (albeit sometimes recycled), slightly-varied stage themes, elegant feel
Enjoyment 4/5 - Fun to play, can definitely feel a sense of attachment to Ivy and her quest, not a lot of variety
Extra Content 4/5 - Hidden feathers to collect, 50 stages in all, can replay stages for higher scores such a bargain for only $5

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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