Ivy The Kiwi? is a curiosity. The game is from Yuji Naka, creator of one of the most iconic platformers of all time, Sonic The Hedgehog. It features a bizarre connection to New Zealand's national icon as well, the titular character is, as promised, a wee Kiwi chick by the name of Ivy. Confusingly titled as a question, Ivy is on a mission to get from point A to point B in a charmingly styled side-scroller.
Drawn like a faded old story book, the world Ivy exists in looks bang-on for the kind of location you'd expect a nocturnal ground dwelling bird to be – a kind of construction site in front of nature.
While it is an interesting aesthetic choice – and a consistent one – it can be a little drab for the portable gamer. As it states cheerily on the box alongside its claimed lineage with Sonic, this title is aimed at children 3 years and up. It's not the kind of eye candy young children usually succumb to, a factor which I took into account when playing the game.
Alongside the unconventional looks of Ivy, the controls are fairly novel as well. Instead of directing Ivy through the levels directly, you do so by proxy in the form of elastic vines. Up to three vines at a time can be stretched or slapped across the level, forming ramps, blockades and catapults. The perennially sprinting Kiwi uses these player-controlled vines to streak across obstacles and reach her goal.
In order to add a bit of extra challenge to the game, Ivy can also to collect feathers which are scattered around the map. Some of these are incredibly difficult to attain while keeping the bird moving at a decent clip – a significant degree of skill is needed to get the 10 on offer per level.
Speaking of difficulty, the complexity of the required tasks and the manner in which vines are used to pull them off all ramp up fairly quickly, something that is sure to leave more novice players scratching their heads after two dozen or so of the 100 levels.
While the feathers add an extra element to the gameplay, they serve as no real reward compared to the inspiration of game design that was Sonic's rings.
Ivy The Kiwi? was all over pretty quickly in my hands, but it was an enjoyable experience. The short nature of the levels, the apparent lack of a story with any meaning and the satisfyingly original play mechanic make it a great portable title.
Whether you have an hour to sit around and knock off 30 levels or just a few minutes between trains, Ivy will feel like a worthwhile purchase.