The concept of Ivy the Kiwi is sound –it'sa Kirby: Canvas Curse-style platformer where you guide an adorable bird through all manner of hazards. Ivy never stops walking, and you can't control her directly. To get her to go where you want, draw vines on the screen using the stylus that she'll walk on, which you can use in a number of ways.
Drawing a sloped vine in front of her lets her to walk over otherwise impassible steps and pits (she can't jump on her own), and you can even scoop her up and fling her forward by starting a vine near her and swinging it up behind her to push her. There's also a slingshot mechanic where you touch a vine you've already created and pull it back with the stylus while Ivy is on the vine to slingshot her through breakable blocks and enemies.
The vine drawing mechanic is definitely well-suited to the DS touchscreen (much better than the motion-controlled Wii version – review here), but the controls are still not without their own problems on the DS. The biggest issue is with the slingshot mechanic, as half the time when you try to pull back an existing vine to use as a slingshot you end up creating a new vine instead, and conversely often when you want to create a new vine near an existing vine you end up just yanking back the existing instead. It's unfortunate, because this is one of the few things that actually works perfectly on Wii, since the Wii version requires you to hold the B button to pull back a vine as a slingshot so that there will never be any confusion about what the player wants to do. It seems like this could have been at least partially rectified by requiring you to hold a shoulder button to use the slingshot function.
Aside from those minor control annoyances, using vines to guide little Ivy through each level works well though, and is infinitely more natural on the DS version. The most rewarding part of playing Ivy the Kiwi is discovering how to use the vine mechanic on your own – the game definitely doesn't over-tutorialize you, which is a frequent crime in modern games, especially games with such as novel mechanic as Ivy's. When you first start drawing vines, your instinct might be to just draw simple slopes to lead Ivy above obstacles, but there's actually a lot more you can do by creatively moving the vine around Ivy as you draw it. Big kudos to Ivy the Kiwi for not killing the joy of discovery by overexplaining.
Sept 1, 2010