Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by a game. You go into it thinking "Oh, I'll never like this type of thing", or more often, at least in my case "that's too childish, I'll never enjoy rolling around picking up items with a stupid katamari" and you end up walking away with a smile on your face and the joy of finding something new. This was exactly what happened we walked into a meeting with XSEED and saw Prope studio's Ivy The Kiwi? and yes, I am positive about the title.
Ivy's pedigree is a strong one, so it probably shouldn't have come as a surprise that it was so enjoyable. It is the first game created by Prope studios, the brainchild of Yuji Naka, the creator of the Sonic franchise. The game follows Ivy, a bird who has hatched in the middle of the forest without a mother. As the game's first 50 out of 100 stages unfold, you follow the story of Ivy as you help her(him? it?) find her mother. This idea of a story unfolding throughout the game is reflected in the art style, which is very reminiscent of a children's story book. Although technically the graphics may not be pushing the limit of the Wii, the flavor of the art more than makes up for any technical shortcomings.
Pictured: Ivy walks along one of your vines to avoid thorns.
The gameplay is deceptively simple, especially before you get the chance to play it. You never directly control Ivy, who walks in a straight line the entire time. Instead, you control a series of vines (up to three per a player, more on that later) that guide Ivy away from her straight path and over blocks, around enemies, and up into the air. In order to beat each level you need to avoid the various pitfalls (some of which Ivy can be protected from with vines) to the end goal Along the way you can collect feathers and one hidden coin per level. The feathers don't do anything specifically that we were told, however, both of the collectibles to provide an increased level of difficulty, as finding and collecting feathers really tests your skills with controlling the wii mote and Ivy as well.
The combination of quality 2D level design (hello sonic) and inventive keeps the game from becoming boring and repetitive quickly, we were also shown levels in which various types of enemies needed to be dealt with to further add to the difficulty level . What's more, after you have finished the first 50 stages another 50 are unlocked which are similar to the first 50, but require you to find a secret door. At this point you may be thinking "I'm not 10 anymore, this game is not for me at all", if that's the case, think again. My partner and I got to try out the co-op mode, which consists of multiple people (and their additional vines) helping guide Ivy through the stages. Although the extra 3 vines per person seems like a sure fire benefit, we found that it actually requires a large amount of teamwork to keep from boxing Ivy in and/or ramming her into deadly spikes.
Once we got our hands on the title, it was just pure fun: the gameplay, as anticipated,it had very simple mechanics but at the same time required a lot of precision in order to finish the level and a true mastery in order to collect all the feathers and make it through the level. You will definitely need to replay parts of the game if you want collect everything to be had. Despite this, the difficulty was paced so that although the couple levels we played levels felt difficult they never felt overwhelming, even with one player (co-op levels are the same as one-player levels and anyone can jump in at any time) and there was a definite pick-up and play quality to the game. There was also a versus mode where up to four players tried to finish a stage with the added twist that you could add vines on other players' screens which we didn't get a chance to try out but looked to be a surprising amount of mayhem from the bit that we saw.
We walked out of the booth with nothing but smiles on our faces after having a really good time with Ivy, much to both of our surprises. Although I can see it getting a bit repetitive if you play it for a really long time, I probably would have thought the same thing about the initial Mario game, and I had a blast with that. Nonetheless, it is a great game to play with friends and is at least worth your attention when it comes out on the Wii and DS (substituting the stylus for the wiimote) this summer.