Developer: CMA Megacorp
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Kiwanuka is a game that curiously eschews many of the trappings of modern mobile gaming. It’s a game that could easily use things like a star system, like seemingly every other game, but it stands out because of the lack of such modern trappings.

Kiwanuka_holePlayers control a Kiwanuka shepherd who must lead a group of followers to an encased shepherd in the level who has become trapped within a prism. Forming chains of followers with the lightning staff to navigate around the levels is necessary: they can swing in a circular motion, and create bridges and ramps when attached to another point. The game becomes about figuring out when and where to create the chains to properly navigate to where the trapped Kiwanuka follower is. However, there’s no limit to how many chains of followers can be used, or timers, or anything: beat the level and it’s beaten, and the next one is unlocked.

There are achievements – mostly for completing chunks of the game, for tweeting out the context-free signs, and a couple of legitimate challenges – but that’s it for the meta-game. There are no fast time leaderboards. There are no secrets to discover. It’s just about plowing through the game. This does really hurt the replayability, but I suppose that given its generally-straightforward nature there’s not much reason to make players come back. Plus, not having anything other than the barest replay value is actually kind of nice: it’s just about going through, enjoying the experience, not worrying about time, stars, or any of that other silliness. It’s just a game; an experience to be enjoyed. This is not at all to slight games that are about fast times and collectibles: it’s just nice to have variety, a game that eschews the star system.

Kiwanuka_supergoodThe controls generally work well, having players drag lightning out from the leader to spots on the ground for the leader to go to. Don’t worry about the followers, they’re seemingly limitless in number. So even if they die, it’s not anything to be bothered with. Dragging upward from the leader creates a tower of followers that can be swung around to create bridges and ramps, double-tapping the chain of followers dissipates it, which is necessary for some puzzles. The problem is that some levels involve particular timing to pass through hazards, and this winds up being rather flustering. The controls are not built for speed, they’re built to work within situations where players can take advantage of their innate inaccuracy. So when the game demands precise timing, it’s a lot less satisfying than it normally is.

While Kiwanuka can be frustrating, and perhaps not a game that’ll be played again and again, it’s charming because it’s not built to be artificially-replayed. Beat it and the game is beaten. As well, the game looks and sounds great. This is meant to be an experience, and while it’s not the greatest one, it won’t disappoint those who follow it.


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