For all the highly detailed visuals, bass pounding audios and hundreds of millions of pounds of story telling that come with games nowadays, sometimes it’s good to get back to basics, get back to something that doesn’t take itself too seriously, something that looks like it’s come straight out of the 80’s. Something like Kalimba in fact.

Kalimba originally came to our attention under the ‘Project Totem’ guise and after the huge success of Press Plays Christmas title back in 2013; Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, it was something I was looking forward to checking out. This is however a very different beast to Max and sees you take on the role of two small totem pieces; two pieces who love to go everywhere together, so much so that they aren’t controlled independently, instead each mimicking the movement of the other entirely. It’s then up to you to help navigate the pieces through numerous levels filled with platforms, puzzles and enemies. It may sound simple enough but the unique movement involved makes Kalimba work entirely different to your average puzzler and from the very first minute right up until the very last, you’ll be needing to draw upon all of your gray matter to weave your way through.

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Taken through proceedings by the humourous HoeBear, things start off reasonably easy and experienced gamers should find they have the right skillset available to them in order to just about succeed, but be warned now, give the controller to a non gamer and they’ll struggle right from the outset. The inclusion of colour switching, power ups, anti gravity and multiple enemy types ensure that a tough time is to be had for all with your mind saying one thing…then another…then another! Kalimba is the ultimate ‘mess with your head’ title and I’m not really sure that’s a good thing!

On your way to success, you’ll find a number of collectible orbs scattered around the levels and these determine how well, or how badly, you’ll be scored at the end with your main aim to score as many points as possible in order to grab the most decorated of totem pieces. The more you collect and the quicker you go about things, the nicer looking totem pole you’ll create and the higher up the leaderboard you will end. However, whilst each orb you collect adds one on to your score, each death that takes place takes one away..and believe me, you’ll be dying a lot in Kalimba. Maybe not as much as in something like Super Meat Boy, but unless you take your time to figure out what is needed your score will no doubt be pretty paltry. With gold, decorated, standard and wooden totem pieces to earn with each level completed, the replayability factor is extremely high as there is very little chance of you gold standarding any level first time. Bear in mind that whilst there are only 24 levels (three of which are boss battles), it’s here you’ll see why Kalimba may take only a few hours to play through once, but many many more to fully master.

Whilst there is no time limit, you won’t want to go about things too slowly, but even when you do hang around for a few seconds working out your next course of action, things aren’t that simple. Kalimba works on the premise of two separate colours working together, messing with your mind and then working independently from one another. Whilst you can switch these colours at any time, it’s a bit of a task to swap them at the exact time needed in order to move through the level. Later levels see you make the use of power ups and just as you think things are getting a bit easier, the last few levels hit both your eyes and your mind real hard.

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Manage to fluke your way through the main campaign and a number of secret levels with differing attributes will hopefully open up to you, as long as you’ve searched out and unlocked them beforehand though. The inclusion of an ‘Old Skool Mode’ in which you need to complete the levels with only three lives and no continues may appeal to the sadistic ones amongst us.

Multiplayer-wise and Kalimba has a big local co-op offering. However, it’s possibly the most frustrating thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of participating in.

Whilst single player totem moving is hard enough with the constant jumping and double jumping, throw in a second player, a second set of totem pieces, jumping, double jumping and then quadruple jumping and that difficulty level moves up not just one, but a whole ton of notches. There are a fair few levels included but in all seriousness, if you plan on getting anywhere near completing the whole damn lot then both you, and your co-op partner must have the patience of a saint. It’s all about timing of jumps, switching of pieces and cooperative play but whilst local sofa co-op should be a fun experience, perhaps with a beer or two in hand, that found in Kalimba is far from it and I wholeheartedly advise you not to play it with any form of alochol in your system! I’d normally complain a little that there is no online co-op to be had from a game like this but believe me, it wouldn’t work in the slightest as the precision and cooperation that is needed just couldn’t be found over a broadband line. It’s hard enough getting things working correctly when you’re sat next to the person, let alone when they are on the other side of the world!

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Kalimba then is a puzzle platformer that brings something slightly different to the Xbox One table. Bright and colourful it is and Press Play have done away with any high tech wizardry to bring us something that looks simple, but brings a whole new world to the meaning of mastery…and indeed frustration. The mechanics of a platform puzzler are always key to its success and being honest, they work well and are just about bearable in the single player mode, but get overshadowed very quickly indeed when outside of that.

Honestly speaking, I don’t think I’ve ever shouted at a game quite so much as I did whilst playing through the solo campaign and I was very nearly on the verge of murder whilst attempting some of the local co-op modes that come with it.

For £7.99 it’s cheap. But I’m not sure it’s worth a life sentence.

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