Review: Super Kiwi 64 – An N64-style platformer packed with deceptive energy

Super Kiwi 64 feels like it’s up to something. There’s a tricky energy about it that’s impossible to ignore. Players of previous Siactro games might be expecting that, but this isn’t more of the same. Super Kiwi 64 is strange in its own special way, introducing a new tour through the mind of this indie developer.

Kiwi opens into a central area that connects eight main levels for N64-style non-linear item-collecting platforms. It looks like it’s been perfectly preserved in glacial ice since the era of Silicon Graphics’ reality coprocessor of the N64. It could have been released in 1999, equally copying Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. Even then, though, we’d have been a little wary, as the level of polish isn’t up to par with those titles. But despite that, it feels like there’s something happening – something weird.

From the very first level, the messy edges were right in our face. The camera, for example, has a laissez-faire attitude towards the solidity of objects in the environment and will gladly just go through any scenery you want… But there is something going with that? Naturally, we use the camera to peek through the walls and see where we should try to get to. Was this by design? Are there game mechanics built on seemingly broken 3D foundations? Or is it actually an anarchic punk aesthetic where you just need to relax with the camera and your bourgeois expectation that it should take part in the charade of a solid setting? Is the camera deliberately flawed as a parody of itself and an examination of player value expectations in AAA game production? Or could it, perhaps, be a bit rubbish?

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That last possibility doesn’t hold up very far. Too much of Super Kiwi 64 is too polished for it all to be one big mistake: the controls are responsive and fun, the sticking-the-wall-jumping-to-climb motion trick (a Mario Odyssey reference?) is satisfying. On the other hand, the level design is incredibly simple, with a red key that opens a red door, and a clear count of collectibles that are rarely hidden well, if at all.

Yet the defiant simplicity of it all is so controlled that surely Siactro must be doing it consciously. The kiwi’s microsecond celebration pose as he collects a jewel is comically understated compared to Mario’s now rather over-the-top twist when he collects a Power Moon. He blinks and you’ll miss it but, taken as a joke, he’s perfect. And like Toree’s previous games, Super Kiwi 64’s paucity of levels is justified by their brevity and very low difficulty. That said, while you can finish the entire game in an hour or two, it does have a genuinely mysterious set of secrets buried deep inside. Without spoiling, let’s just say we were convinced that the truly damn vibe of the piece wasn’t just in our heads.

Our experience with Super Kiwi 64 boils down to this: we were having a good time, but we didn’t always know if it was because of or because of the game. Either we have found a gold coin in a muddy field or we have found Elvis’s face in our mush. If you’re trying this out, be sure to bring the imagination of it along with your £2.69.

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