It is rare to see new IP. It is even rarer for that new IP to be a two-dimensional platformer. That is what we have though. Ivy the Kiwi? is the newest game created by Yuji Naka, the man responsible for Sonic the Hedgehog. Ivy the Kiwi? is not just a reskin of the Blue Blur though. Sonic is about momentum, speed, and multiple paths through the level while Ivy is self-propelled (think Bit.Trip Runner or Canabalt). You can cause her to jump, but she’ll always be moving to the right through gorgeous environments that look hand-drawn and invoke the same sense of childlike wonder found in Yoshi’s Island.
So you can’t control which direction Ivy is going or how quickly she is getting there, but you have more options than jump and not jump. In order to avoid environmental obstacles you will need to use the Wii remote to draw vines for Ivy to run on and jump off of to avoid spikes, pits, and anything else that would do the titular birdie any harm. Drawing vines for Ivy turns from an act of necessity to an act of strategy. Only three vines can exist at any given time. If you go to draw a fourth the first will disappear even if Ivy is currently standing on it. You’ll need to plan ahead, but the action can still be hectic with the vine limit.
When enemies join the game’s spikes and acid you will need to use vines for more than level traversal. You can either use vines to block enemies away from Ivy or you can use the vines to bounce Ivy up into the air and then down again to use a spin drill move to take the enemies out permanently. And you’ll need to get good at the drill technique as it is the only way to get past the breakable blocks that show up in later stages. Ivy the Kiwi? does a good job of introducing concepts slowly so you won’t ever feel overwhelmed. As soon a you’ve mastered jumping over spikes you will move on to keeping acid from falling on Ivy’s head, and after that you’ll start encountering enemies. Eventually you’ll need to throw rocks at obstacles which is difficult since you can never stop Ivy’s movement, but the physics are sound – when a throw doesn’t work properly it isn’t because the game cheated you, but trying the same section over and over again can be frustrating nonetheless.
The unique mechanics presented here make Ivy the Kiwi? look like a platformer but play like a puzzler. You’ll need to figure out what to do and when to do it since Ivy’s constant forward motion imposes a time limit on the short but numerous levels. If you are looking for a family-friendly game on Wii whose challenge ramps up as the game progresses making it appropriate for younger gamers and older gamers alike.
Pros: Good progression of techniques, Gradual difficulty curve
Cons: Throwing is tricky due to lack of direct interaction with the environment