What if Overcooked, but in a post office… with kiwis? You know, those endangered flightless birds native to the idyllic twin islands of New Zealand? In fact, don’t answer that question, as developer Stonewheat & Sons has already done all the hard work for you with its debut title, KeyWe.
Scheduled to release on PC later in the year (and with plans to launch on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch sometime after that), the co-op “postal puzzler” began life as the result of Global Game Jam in 2018 (one of the rules being "your game must include a bird protagonist"), but has evolved into its own fully fledged title, currently being worked on by Stonewheat’s four-person team in their free time between day jobs.
In case you still need clarification about that deliriously high concept, KeyWe stars two kiwis (Jeff and Debra) running regular shifts at their local mailing joint in the fictional territory of Bungalow Basin. Don’t ask me how they got the job, or what their resume even looked like (presumably a collage of claw marks and mud), but it turns out that the pair are pretty good at keeping the tightly oiled ship of New Zealand’s public postal service running, provided the two players controlling them know how to work as a team.
Kiwi be friends?
It's here where the Overcooked 2 comparisons come into play. As challenging as it is charming, KeyWe’s simple platforming gameplay is comprised of four different mission types that represents the various stages of the postal system, from transcribing telegrams to counting out the payroll. No matter what you’re doing, though, you’ll need to communicate with your other avian half to stay on top of the demands of Bungalow Basin’s stream of incoming and outgoing mail.
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That said, KeyWe’s co-op dynamics aren’t nearly as stressful as its culinary contemporary, instead more interested in encouraging positive interdependence rather than taking delight in the stressful screaming matches of Team 17’s digital kitchens.In some sense, KeyWe is almost too straightforward in certain parts of its current form. One mini game, for example, simply asks players to collect a number of coins within a fairly generous time limit, and there’s nothing else to it other than some basic platforming across a tightly contained level.
The same can be said of The Telegraph Desk, which – again – doesn’t do enough to engage with the opportunities presented by its co-op premise, though the Shipping Floor and Transcription Room stages do a much better job at tapping into those collaborative dynamics. Hopefully Stonewheat can embellish KeyWe’s weaker points before launch to ensure it plays more consistently as a co-op party game, rather than a light edutainment title from the 90’s.
In better news, Stonewheat has also promised that seasonal challenges will update KeyWe throughout its post-launch life cycle, with in-game weather developments designed to bring new twists to its core gameplay rhythms, while a light customisation feature is present to deck out your playable bird with fresh headwear and “plumage skins.” Given that these accessories are the only place to spend KeyWe’s in-game currency earned from each shift at the office, the current range of accessories are fairly light, for now making it less effective as a channel for self-expression and more helpful for distinguishing your kiwi from your partner’s when the action gets a bit more hectic.
To put it in the plainest terms, if KeyWe’s trailer brings a smile to your face, then chances are the full game will keep that smile beaming for a good few hours at least. The aesthetic and conceptual charm of its hair-brained conceit goes a surprisingly long way in keeping you entertained even through the game’s less stimulating levels, but there is absolutely a foundation for something great here, and that potential is still sparkling as Stonewheat continues to work on the title before release. Plus, what other game lets you play as a kiwi in a post room? Come find me on the Shipping Floor once you come up with an answer. Those packages aren’t going to label themselves, after all.
Discover more great new games of 2019 on the way by following the link, or watching the video below for a bitesize highlight to the biggest upcoming titles of the bunch.