sat 06/06/2020

Kiwanuka | reviews, news & interviews



A simple yet deep puzzle game with frustrating controls

Kiwanuka: a fun game but with fiddly controls
Good puzzle game mechanics are hard to find and Kiwanuka has just the one. Luckily, it is a great one that allows for taxing but elegant levels full of the "Aha!" moments that puzzle fans gobble up like smarties.

To the casual (if veteran) gamer, Kiwanuka resembles the Nineties classic Lemmings in how it tasks you with guiding a group of tiny charaters to safety across a screen full of rocky 2D platforms. Whereas in that game you had to guide scores of little guys to an exit by bestowing them with special powers (such as climbing, digging or the ability to explode like dynamite) in Kiwanuka only one of your crowd has anything like a useful power – a magic staff that can order the gaggle of people following him to move or hop on each other's shoulders and form a tower. Once your little guys have piled on to make a tower, a little pressure to one side or the other will cause it to topple and hopefully form a bridge of people, over which your avatar can walk.

If your toppled tower fails to hit the other side of a gap when it falls it will keep swinging through an arc and might connect underneath the platform on which you are standing or just flop uselessly against one of several lethal surfaces that will cause the whole world to shatter into tiny polygonal shards. Other things that can bring about shardmaggeddon include touching a moving enemy – of which several are introduced later in the game – or simply leading your possee off the edge of a platform into the abyss below. You can also tap to destroy a bridge – either to scrap it and try again or while your guys are part of the way across so that they drop down on to a platform below.

From these simple ingredients Kiwanuka fashions an engaging puzzle adventure over 30 levels. In each you need to move your tribe to a set goal in order to free another (named) member of the group. This named character becomes the important staff-wielding focus of the subsequent level.

Kiwanuka - endearing character design

On the whole the game works pretty well. The level design throws ever more difficult combinations of gaps and obstacles at you and given that you only have one trick up your sleeve you really have to think about the correct way to place your towers and linking bridges and when to destroy a bridge to perform a controlled fall. The character design is endearing and the solutions mostly satisfying to puzzle out, and there's atmospheric music to egg you on.

Kiwanuka - puzzle game in the style of Pikmin or LemmingsThe problem lies in the controls. You can tap anywhere along a platform to move your lead avatar or stretch out a bolt of lightning from their staff to send them and their retinue to where you want them to go, Unfortunately, on a small screen (we playtested on an iPhone 5) it's very tricky to get them exactly where you want and all too easy to overshoot the intended mark. A careless fingertip can turn an attempted tower into a fateful plunge, meaning you have to restart the level from scratch. It makes the game much more frustrating than it ought to be. You can't help but think that if there was a slightly more complex control scheme these missteps could be avoided.

Kiwanuka is a fun puzzle game that gets a lot right, but the fiddly controls mean that even though you can see how to proceed the game often makes it difficult for you to do so – and not in the good way.

  • Kiwanuka is out now. Developed and published by CMA Megacorp. Android/IOS
Full of the 'Aha!' moments that puzzle fans gobble up like smarties


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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