Kalimba Sneak Peek | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Kalimba Sneak Peek



Press Play’s upcoming title Kalimba (formally known as Project Totem) is rather hard to describe. In the strictest sense it is a simple platformer but there is something about Kalimba that makes me think it is so much more.

Built on Unity, this somewhat basic looking indie game has a certain charm that is hard to place. I have been fortunate enough to get early access to the first 8 levels of the game and so far I am pretty impressed.

Hoebear the Metabear is your guide and narrator, he introduces the story and provides helpful hints as you play. I like Hoebear, setting aside the 4th wall breaks he continually drops as casually as James bond supping some whiskey, he is immediately likable. His narration is well written and got a few chuckles out of me from the word “go”. I’m not sure how or if the developers will continue at the same pace with him but it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

The island of Kalimba was home to a shaman who protects a powerful totem pole. One day an evil shaman zaps her and the totem pole is destroyed, its parts are scattered throughout the island and you, as the spirit of the good shaman has to retrieve them. It is a good enough story that sets the backdrop for the game and sets up the beginnings of a narrative. As the sneak peek was only the first 8 levels it’s anyone’s guess how the story will progress, but it has plenty of promise as a good vs. evil tale.

You will take control of two totems, possessed by our shaman spirit and it is your task to retrieve these so that the totem pole can be tall and powerful once more. The mechanics of this simple sounding task are anything but. You control both totems simultaneously and they will not move independently of each other. It takes a bit of getting used to as the path laid out before your green totem may not be the same as the purple totem’s path. It takes a fair amount of brain power and multitasking to ensure both totems are safe and to keep them both alive. The first few levels are well paced and give you plenty of time to get to grips with the simple controls. Movement is controlled by the “left thumbstick” while jumping is assigned to “A”, the final control switches the two totems positions, this becomes pretty damn important later on. That sounds incredibly basic but it takes a while to get into the rhythm of using such basic controls for the puzzles ahead.

The island of Kalimba is fraught with danger, deadly black goo being the main threat. If either of your totems touches this killer tar it will die and you are transported back to the last safe area, usually these mini checkpoints are right in front of where you died so there’s no huge replay penalty for doing so. On top of the black goo there are also green and purple goo’s, this s when Kalimba becomes more than a simple left-to-right platform game. Your totem can travel through goo of the same colour without being harmed but if it touches the other colour it’s an instant death. These sections of the levels can be frustrating and I found they relied more on reaction time or simple repetition to complete but they are fun never the less. The other frequent enemy you will encounter are floating skulls; the skulls will move along a specific route and as per usual, will kill you if they touch one of your totems.

At the end of this sneak peak I encountered one of the game’s boss’ in a boss battle level, battle may be a bit inaccurate as fighting the dragon/snake thing (it’s as close as I can describe it) was less about actual fighting and more in line with using the skills form the first 7 levels to survive. The Boss was killed by hitting glowing orange spots on its body. I struggled with this encounter until I realised that combat is not Kalimba’s strong suit, it is a thinking man’s game.

To stop things from getting too repetitive some levels will have buttons that, when activated, will reverse the gravity for one of your totems. This is when things start to get more complex than I initially thought the game would be. By combining the reverse gravity and switching your totems with the “X” button you can have your totems flying through the air to avoid dangers. It isn’t something that felt entirely natural when I played it, that’s not to say it’s not a well-executed mechanic, because it is, I just struggled with the practical applications of it.

In each level there will be points that you can pick up, these will increase your overall score and award you with a more impressive totem for the pole. Any deaths you have will reduce this score and thus reduce the quality of the totem. It’s all pretty basic scoring but it lends itself well to the deceptively simple looking game. The leaderboard wasn’t functioning on my play through however it is an early access build, so these things are to be expected. I didn’t have any other issues with the gameplay, even for an unfinished game it was perfectly stable with no crashes, game breaking glitches or problems that I could see.

The aesthetic of the game is delightful. It is entirely trixelated (that means it is made up of triangles) and I felt it had a very similar feel to Guacamelee, it is colourful and the simplicity of the graphics plays to the gameplay perfectly.

It is still far too early to tell if Kalimba is going to keep up the good pace of the levels that I got to play but it is shaping up very nicely indeed and I look forward to the game’s launch.

Kalimba is scheduled for a worldwide release on December 17th on the Xbox One Marketplace and will be available for $9.99/ The PC launch should be sometime in 2015.