March 19, 2009 1:32 AM | Michael Rose
Now and again I play a game that my brain tells me just shouldn't be my cup of tea at all and yet... I end up liking quite a lot. Kivi's Underworld definitely falls under this category. Reading exactly what it was all about while installing, it didn't sound like my kind of thing at all. So imagine my surprise when I booted it up and began enjoying myself an absurd amount.
I know, it's unprofessional of me to go into an analysis feeling negatively biased towards Soldak Entertainment's dungeon hack and slasher, but sometimes it's rather difficult not to. Kivi's Underworld leads with a simple premise - make your way through dreary dungeon after dungeon laying into every skeleton, zombie and undead being who happens to cross your path.
Of course there's a story to tie everything together - find this place, save this person, kill all these enemies - nothing out of the ordinary, although it's a nice touch that it's all fully voice narrated.
Controls are just as simple. Left-click causes our little fighter to move into the selected space or attack the highlighted baddie, while right-clicking one of the undead will unleash a more powerful attack (as long as you have mana left). There's also special powerups which can be picked up and used using 1, 2 and 3 on the keyboard. And that's about it.
So I read all this and foolishly thought meh, there can't be that much to it then, can there? And I was dead right - there is not much to it. But that's the absolute beauty of the game. It's just like the Soldak site advertises Kivi - 'a casual, hack and slash game'. That's exactly what it is and it's fantastic fun. Running around hacking bad guys to the ground, firing off rather lovely power-ups, collecting everything you find and searching for secret areas is what this game does and it never tries to be anything more than it actually is.
By focusing on being as simple as possible, the focus on making Kivi's Underworld brilliant to play is spot on and everything about it oozes polish. Map layouts, game menus, unlockable achievements - it all feels very nice indeed.
On top of all this, there's also a whole host of extra characters to unlock, each with their own special right-click powers and statistics, and each character is given a small bio to tie everything together. You can really feel the effort that has gone into making the game as full an experience as possible and the developers have definitely been rewarded for their pain-staking attention to detail.
Kivi's Underworld is great fun for both casual and more hardcore gamers. I'd bet that even the most casual player would end up sticking the story out for a good 10 hours, while completists will find themselves still at it for much longer.
Soldak have created a beautifully simple hack and slasher adventure with the kind of gameplay and longevity that will keep a whole range of gamers happy. Pick up your copy now for $19.99 from the Soldak Entertainment site. There's also a demo to try if you're still not convinced.