Kal­imba

Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher/de­vel­oper Press Play For­mat Xbox One Re­lease Out now

With each level you com­plete in Kal­imba, an­other face is added to the totem pole on the level se­lect screen, rais­ing a tow­er­ing record of your progress. Your mon­u­ment may be one of shame, crude logs declar­ing to the world how you’ve scraped through, or of glory, shim­mer­ing dec­o­ra­tions and even gold-plated vis­ages tele­graph­ing your tri­umph.

It’s the game’s mo­tive force, a chal­lenge that goads you to re­turn to Kal­imba’s off­beat plat­form­ing gauntlets, which in sin­gle­player are a bit like the videogame equiv­a­lent of try­ing to rub your ab­domen and pat your head. In­stead of mess­ing with your pro­pri­o­cep­tion, this game toys with your spa­tial aware­ness, ask­ing you to guide two pieces of living totem to the goal in tan­dem. When one jumps, the other jumps too. When one runs right, both move right. Lev­els fre­quently split both the pair and your fo­cus, while coloured zones al­low only the cor­re­spond­ing piece to pass through in­tact, with taps of X swap­ping the pair in space. To play Kal­imba is to ride the fine line be­tween chal­lenged and over­whelmed as your brain scrab­bles to stay on top of two games at once, and Press Play does a fine job of pris­ing your hemi­spheres pro­gres­sively far­ther apart with­out the ed­i­fice clat­ter­ing down in a mind-melt­ing dis­as­ter.

You can’t af­ford to be a per­fec­tion­ist, though. Gold tro­phies are re­served for those able to snatch ev­ery last col­lectible with­out a sin­gle death, yet Kal­imba can feel too im­pre­cise to im­pose such a de­mand. Sev­eral lev­els in­tro­duce in­verted grav­ity, for in­stance, where one ori­en­ta­tion of pieces causes your totems to fall to­wards cen­tre screen and the other to its edges. But there’s a lag be­fore the new force takes ef­fect, a tire­some layer of un­cer­tainty to mas­ter be­fore you can per­fect runs. The brain-bend­ing na­ture of th­ese chal­lenges also has im­pli­ca­tions for the flow – you’re of­ten bet­ter slow­ing down and plan­ning than plung­ing ahead and re­act­ing.

Be­ing pred­i­cated on col­lab­o­ra­tion, it’s no sur­prise that the game comes to­gether in co-op mode. Each player gets their own set of two like-coloured totems, and the need to talk in­tro­duces a syn­co­pated rhythm to each level’s chal­lenges. It also frees the de­sign­ers to cre­ate large-scale puzzles of dev­as­tat­ing in­ge­nu­ity – cre­at­ing a four-piece-tall tower that can wade safely through a coloured pool and then leap se­quen­tially off each other to get the up­per­most piece to new heights re­quires fore­thought, team­work and tim­ing.

If Kal­imba’s pair­ing of sin­gle- and mul­ti­player doesn’t quite work in the same har­mony, that isn’t to say that ei­ther is re­dun­dant. It’s just that there’s less mo­ti­va­tion to per­se­vere in erect­ing a mon­u­ment to your skill when there’s no one around to see it.

Stack­ing totems re­duces your men­tal work­load and also lets you bounce the higher piece into the air. You soon have to learn how to land jumps on top of totems stand­ing in coloured zones, a dicey feat of co­or­di­na­tion

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