Kiwanuka ($1.99) by CMA Megacorp is an electrifying new abstract puzzle game that is an absolute delight to play. If you enjoy abstract games like Smash Hit and Botanicula, then there’s a good chance that you will enjoy what Kiwanuka has to offer as well.
If you’ve read my other reviews, you should realize by now that I absolutely adore puzzle games. However, one thing that is a negative about the genre is the fact that a lot of the games have the same concept, so things are repeated quite often and thus, get tiresome after a while. Fortunately, Kiwanuka hit the App Store last week, and it’s definitely one of the most interesting little puzzle games I’ve come across recently.
The visuals in Kiwanuka are downright stunning. The crystal platforms that you will move on are colorful, vibrant, and incredibly shiny, as if they are real crystals on your screen. Despite being simple, flattened shapes, the developers have added enough depth to them through various shading methods to make them seem as if they’re in 3-D. The character sprites of your main character, as well as all of its followers, are quite cute and lively, bringing in most of the charm and personality to the game. Animations are lovely, especially the lightning that comes out from the staff, and run smoothly on my iPhone 5s. There’s also some quirky and upbeat tunes that you’ll hear as you play, which are quite pleasing, topped off with bizarre sound effects.
The game has plenty of challenging levels, though I’m not sure what the exact amount is because I haven’t managed to get through them all yet. You will go through each stage one-by-one in a linear fashion, finding the next acolyte who will guide the followers on the next level. There are no points to earn or stars to collect — you just have the goal of guiding the wizard of each stage to the imprisoned staff bearer (who will be your character in the next level), with help from your awed followers.
The controls in the game are pretty simple, once you get the hang of things. Your main character for each stage will bear a staff that shoots out lightning to guide the followers who are all around you. This is also how you control the characters. Simply drag from the tip of the staff to create some lightning that will guide the acolyte and followers where you want them to go. If you drag upwards from the staff’s tip, you will be able to create a “tower” of followers, which can then be tipped over to create bridges to help the rest of them reach platforms that would have been impossible to reach otherwise.
You’ll need to think about things like the length of each bridge, the placement, and you’ll have to watch out for dangerous parts of the crystal platforms, such as the magenta zones that will disintegrate anything that touches it. Double tapping on a bridge will clear it from the screen too — you’ll have to do this sometimes as you cross to get to the goal. Your wizard and followers will fall off the end of a bridge if there is no solid ground after it, and you’ll end up doing this quite often to get to the end point.
While the stages look pretty simple, they are anything but, and only become more challenging as you go on. When a new element is introduced, chances are that the game will explain it to you through some obvious signs near the starting point. While your bridge followers can “die” from dangers, there is not really a penalty for that. However, if the staff bearer dies from an obstacle, you will need to start over. There is Game Center integration for achievements only though, since there are no leaderboards in the game.
I’m really enjoying Kiwanuka so far, as the visuals are whimsical and magical, the music and sounds are soothing, and the gameplay itself is very challenging. The controls are simple but can be difficult to master right away, due to the abstract nature of the game. Still, this has been nothing but a lovely experience so far, despite me being far from finished with the game.
I highly recommend picking up Kiwanuka if you are in the mood for a challenging and abstract puzzle to relax with this week. You can get Kiwanuka on the App Store as a universal download for $1.99.