App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Kalimba is a game that tests your ability to multitask. This platformer asks you to control two avatars simultaneously in a quest to free a geometrically-stylized world from darkness. While Kalimba might occasionally test your patience, it's an excellently designed platformer that looks incredible.
Your goal across the entirety of Kalimba is to free the titular island from the throes of an evil shaman. To accomplish this, you must venture across a series of levels to gather totem heads to restore balance to the island. All of this narrative is explained to you via a talking, fourth-wall-breaking bear named Hoebear.
In a more practical sense, players control Kalimba's action via a set of virtual controls that control two characters simultaneously. Any button you push to move your totem-like characters around applies to both and in equal measure. Like a typical platformer, these characters can move to the right or left and can jump. In addition to these basic actions, you can also press a button to cause your characters to instantly swap spots with each other.
A lot of Kalimba's platforming features environmental elements that only one of your two characters can pass through. This is where the swapping button comes into play. Certain sections of levels may share a color with one of your characters, which means that only the character of that color can pass through it. If another character of a different color attempts to pass through it, they will die. This results in a lot of level design centered around rapid swaps of characters through environments to ensure their survival.
In this sense, a lot of Kalimba feels like a platforming version of color-swapping shooter Ikaruga. Levels increasingly ask players to perform complex platforming sections all while swapping colors quickly to avoid death. This escalates to ridiculous levels in later levels which feature boss fights and power ups that can make your characters grow wings or even reverse gravity. In each of these levels, Kalimba injects some new enemies, power ups, or environmental elements that make you swap in completely new and inventive ways.
Kalimba can be quite a demanding game. In my time with it, there were levels that I died more than a couple dozen times before making it through. To keep this from feeling too frustrating, Kalimba has a smart checkpointing system that instantly restarts you a short distance from wherever you died. This sounds like something that might make Kalimba too easy, but it's actually quite the contrary. Some of the platforming sections of the game are so difficult that having an instant restart to take an immediate extra try keeps the experience from feeling overly punishing.
For those that do want a heftier challenge, Kalimba contains secret challenge rooms in certain levels and also rates your performance on each level by score and time on a leaderboard. This gives you something new to do every time you dive back into one of Kalimba's levels.
The bottom line
The way that Kalimba builds levels around its swapping mechanic is exquisite. Every single level presents a new and creative challenge and not just a harder version of something that came before. Simply put, Kalimba's platforming is excellent and well worth your time and money.