|System: Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Prope||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: XSEED||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 24, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Since Yuji Naka of Sonic the Hedgehog fame left Sega in 2006, he hasnt done much in the vein of platformers, instead using his new development studio to explore other (read: casual) avenues of game design. The collective surprise from among the gaming community for Nakas Ivy the Kiwi?, then, was big news, at least for the legions of gamers who grew up chasing rings and running through loop-de-loops in the 16-bit era. I actually had a chance to try out Ivy at E3 and was pretty impressed with the results.
Far from a Sonic clone, Ivy is one of those forward motion puzzle-style platformers that have seen a bit of a resurgence lately in games like Bit.Trip Runner, Mirrors Edge iPhone, and the indie favorite Canabalt. Generally, Im disappointed with platformers that constantly propel you forward, since I enjoy being able to stop and embrace all the nooks and crannies of a games design. But Ivy is an unassuming and spirited little game thats also quite enjoyable, much like the examples noted above, even if youre not allowed to stop.
Ivy herself is also one of the cutest game mascots on the Wii. Though a certain kawaii factor might turn off some more hardcore gamers, this little bird is too adorable not to love instantly. Its bad enough the game opens with storybook drawings of Ivy running around still in her eggshell, spilling big teardrops everywhere as she runs this way and that, looking for her lost mother. But rather than coming off as unnatural or overly sugary (the fate of too many cutesy games to count), Ivys feel is heartwarming and genuine rather than forced.
The point is, Ivy has a quaint set of sensibilities, from the charm of its presentation to its aesthetics and mechanics. The world Ivy inhabits is made up of simple pencil sketched backdrops and stylized cel-shaded levels and characters, something like a post-Kindergarten Yoshis Island with a heavy emphasis on line shading. The Wii renders Ivy quite well, so well youll probably wish the game had a zoom option so you could better admire its artistry, though all of its simple effects are subtle and probably not taxing the hardware too much, the game is still pretty impressive to behold.
Gameplay is also relatively simple: running forward through a series of levels, you have to protect Ivy from various dangers and obstacles. The only way to achieve this is by stretching out protective vines that Ivy can run along, half-fly from one object to the next (think Yoshis floating jump), or slingshot across a stage with. Vines are drawn on-screen with the Wii Remote and can stretch or be manipulated in real time as Ivy makes her way across them.
The catch is you can only use three vines at once, after which the first drawn disappears, making it essential to keep an eye on where Ivy is in relation to these temporary passages at all times. Bouncing Ivy from one vine to the next is also a skill youll need to master, particularly in relation to her relative speed and the vines reactive physics. It seems like programming the vines to feel and behave accurately would be a big challenge and certainly one the games fun factor would hinge on; luckily, Naka and Prope nailed it.