There isn’t an ounce of fat on Kinduo. It’s a no-nonsense puzzler from Ratalaika that skips anything resembling story or collectibles, and instead focuses on delivering thirty-one levels that fit neatly onto one game screen. There are few controls and even fewer things to remember: just get to the door and onto the next level.
But therein lies the rub: Kinduo is so slimline that you can see its ribs. Just as we found that its difficulty and complexity was ramping up to take us somewhere special, it ended, and – though we absolutely wanted to – we couldn’t find a strong enough reason to go back and replay. We could have happily played another thirty-one levels, but it was quickly obvious that Kinduo was done with us.
It’s such a simple setup. The duo in question are a lightning bolt and an earth block, and they want to get home. To get there, they have to work together across thirty levels (plus one bonus level), all neatly constructed out of pixel art. One or two players can play through Kinduo, and the enjoyment is much the same regardless of how you play. That’s largely because Kinduo doesn’t call for synchronised moves or timed sequences, making it a laid-back little co-op game. Or single-player puzzler. Your choice.
The two characters have different rules. The lightning bolt can jump higher than the earth block, but it can also charge up switches that raise platforms. As the levels go on, it also learns to jump-dash. The earth block is a bit dumpier, but it’s capable of pushing blocks, and it soon unlocks the ability to do a kind of bottom-bounce, smashing through ice platforms. Independently, they would be stuffed, but together they can push crates onto switches, grab keys and exit out of doors that represent the end of the level. Switching between the two characters is easy enough with a press of the Y button.
The puzzles are mostly a choice: who do you use for a given situation? Are you sending one or both of you up on the lift? If the lightning bolt goes up, who’s going to get you back down?
For the first twenty-four levels, you can progress through the most basic methods of elimination. You can’t go left, so you must go right. The only character who can get up to that platform is the lightning bolt, so you’re best using them. There’s a crate, so you likely need the earth block. These twenty-four levels are less puzzles, and more a telegraphed chain of cause and effect. We could have done these twenty-five levels in our sleep, and woken up with a satisfying 800 Gamerscore.
It’s not to say that following the process is painful or unenjoyable. The controls in Kinduo are tight, and there are few surprises in its low-level physics. Following the chain to its end has its own enjoyment, and we zoomed through these twenty-four levels without a care. But they’re no challenge at all, and if you come to Kinduo wanting a kind of synaptic massage, then you’re going to be disappointed.
Which makes the last six or seven levels a ‘what could have been’. These levels are fantastic. The permutations of what your two characters could do starts to stretch to double figures, rather than being a choice between one or two possibilities. The ‘Restart Level’ button started getting some use, and we found ourselves putting down the pads to discuss, reverse-engineering a path to the door.
Why couldn’t the whole game have been like this? Or, you know, why did Kinduo reserve the challenge for the last quarter of the game? These levels are glimpses of a devious, fantastic little puzzle box, yet, before you know it, they are done and dusted. We completed the menu of levels and wondered whether another menu would suddenly pop up, surprising us. Oh Kinduo, you almost had us there.
Alas, a Castlevania-style surprise at the end of the game didn’t happen. Thirty-one levels is all it’s got. We were left wondering how we could get more out of Kinduo, because we wanted to: it was an enjoyable snack that left us wanting more. But there were no time trials, collectibles or additional game modes. We’d raided the cupboard and nothing was left. Watching us must have been a bit sad, really. We had to go play It Takes Two again.
Regardless, we’d encourage you to pick up Kinduo, particularly if you have a co-op partner who’s eager to collaborate with you on some puzzles. But go in with the knowledge that, just as things get good, as the difficulty is beginning to creep in, it unceremoniously ends. As long as you’re prepared for that anticlimax, Kinduo is a satisfying way to spend an hour.
You can buy Kinduo from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
- Clear and colourful art
- Works well solo or in co-op
- Last five or six levels offer a decent challenge
- Only the last five levels offer anything like a challenge
- Bit of a slight offering
- No collectibles to aid longevity
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Ratalaika Games
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch, PS4, PS5
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 21 Jan 2022
- Launch price from - £4.99