Here’s an interesting one. Try to picture what the solo project from BioShock Infinite’s Senior Technical Animator, Gwen Frey, might look like. There’s a fair chance you won’t have seen the 3D puzzler Kine coming. However, missing it would be a real shame. As soon as I got started I was immediately hooked – my curiosity dialled all the way up to 11.
You play as Roo, Quat and Euler, who are three machines with the dream of becoming musicians. Each character embodies a different instrument, and as such play in various ways. Roo is the easiest to play as, not gaining any abilities until he learns the accordion. Quat becomes a drummer and Euler a trombone which add more complexity to the puzzling action. Their shared ultimate goal is to reach the main stage and achieve stardom.
Your characters move around the environment square by square, and you’ll have to figure out how to get to the goal, represented by a book of sheet music, in each stage. It quickly becomes clear you’ll need to learn each individual character’s abilities to solve the puzzles and reach the next stage. You’ll have to figure out how to clear chasms and pass under railings, as well as bypass other hazards to get yourself to the finish point.
It’s impossible not to be charmed by all three playable characters and how they interact with each other. Their shared goals and aspirations are very simple, and the dialogue goes hand in hand with that. It’s also witty and tongue in cheek, and is guaranteed to raise a smile.
The puzzles become more challenging as you play, but the overall feel and vibe of the game is very chilled out. You can’t die, instead if you make a wrong move you’ll rebound and will need to try something else. Sometimes you’ll genuinely question if a puzzle is possible, only to appreciate the clever level design when you finally crack it. And if you do get stuck in deep thought, and don’t move your character, they will sometimes help you with a handy hint. It’s a real testament to the extremely clever design of the game: something can look so simple, but pose such a challenge to the player.
To help inspect the challenge that lies before you, the bumpers (RB and LB) can be used to pivot your camera 90 degrees at a time, however it’s easier to use the right thumbstick to control the camera with full 360 degree freedom. Also, the B button can be used to rewind by one move, X will fast forward by a move and Y will reset the stage completely. You can use the view or start button to head back to the stage selection menu at any time. Just in case you were worried, after you clear each stage your progress will be automatically saved.
There are also collectables dotted around some stages, which when you acquire them will unlock side quests. These involve teamwork, and this means playing with multiple characters to solve the puzzles. You can switch between them at any time using RT. This is where Kine really shows off just how well designed it is, and it’s utterly satisfying when you complete these more challenging puzzles, having had your characters work together.
I would have been satisfied with just the first two characters, however when Euler the trombone comes along he takes the head-scratching puzzling to the next level. He has the ability to move along two axis, and you can alternate between the two whenever you like with a simple press of a button. It naturally and effortlessly expands the gameplay, just when you were starting to think Kine had showed its hand.
As you progress you’ll be able to see how much of the world you’re exploring through each level, whilst always being overshadowed by the lure of fame on the main stage. The world is a mysteriously moody suspended maze of different environments, shrouded by clouds.
Kine’s hand drawn art style looks beautiful, and the jazzy soundtrack is nothing short of magical. It’s cutesy, but not babyish, and crucially manages to appeal to all ages. As you progress through a quest, completing the numerous stages, the soundtrack becomes more layered, adding in more elements of an orchestra. It all ties together as an enchanting, interactive, musically driven comic book adventure.
On the face of it, £16.74 may seem expensive for a humble puzzle/platformer game, but the experience is such an enjoyable one it’s worth every penny. That’s not to say the game is short, as there are a decent amount of stages to navigate. Kine’s expert combination of gameplay elements makes it so fantastic to play. It’s a real shame it has to end in fact, because objectively speaking, I really can’t fault it.
Kine on Xbox One is an intensely entertaining and challenging puzzler dripping with charm. It has bags of character and will have you smiling from start to finish. I can’t say much more than do yourself a favour and buy this game.