Kiwi Kraze (NES) review
"No matter what your surroundings, though, the game doesn’t provide a lot of variety in terms of mechanics. You’re still just running through one level after another (mostly swimming between underwater pockets of air in the case of the aquatic world I mentioned), firing your bow to take out the other animals. Some of these leave behind other weapons, such as ray guns that let your shots pass through walls, or bombs you can fire in arches to hit enemies below you."
If I was a kiwi and a walrus kidnapped my pals, I’d probably just sit there chirping. There’d be no dashing out to run through a series of twenty side-scrolling stages, no collecting my buddies from cages while racing against a time limit and rodents. But Kiwi Kraze, one of the many platformers Taito released for the NES, isn’t about me. It’s about a plucky little bird armed with a quiver of arrows and a lust for justice. In case you wondered, it also happens to be pretty darn cool.
The world of Kiwi Kraze is New Zealand, a country filled with sunny skies, deep blue water, spikes and rampaging little animals. At least, that’s the New Zealand you’ll see throughout the game. There are five levels to explore, each broken into four separate zones. The first three are similar enough that you might be forgiven for thinking you’re stuck in a game that doesn’t know how to change up its setting. But you’re not. The final two worlds—one a watery journey and the next an icy tomb—definitely switch away from the norm.
No matter what your surroundings, though, the game doesn’t provide a lot of variety in terms of mechanics. You’re still just running through one level after another (mostly swimming between underwater pockets of air in the case of the aquatic world I mentioned), firing your bow to take out the other animals. Some of these leave behind other weapons, such as ray guns that let your shots pass through walls, or bombs you can fire in arches to hit enemies below you. If you play your cards right, there often will be numerous enemies below you, as you’ll have taken to the sky on a balloon.
Kiwis, which can’t fly, still need to scale massive buildings. So do your enemies. And so you will find numerous balloons scattered throughout the world. Once you board one, you can float about and attack from above. There are several different types of balloon. They move at different speeds. Some resist punctures from spikes, some don’t. If you want to get far, you’ll have to get used to which is best for a given situation. Otherwise, you’ll run out of time.
Suppose your timer ticks down past what is allowed. What happens then? Unlike Super Mario Bros. and other games of that style, you don’t instantly lose a life. Instead, a flying enemy drifts onto the screen to kill you. He’s impervious to any of your attacks, and he moves a bit faster than you. However, this innovation affords you an extra few seconds that in some cases will be enough to let you complete a given level. Very nice.
Something else I like is the warp system. If you know what you’re doing, you can shoot certain locations throughout the world to skip several stages at a time. Though the game does have a limited continue system, clever use of warps allows you to quickly work through to later levels each time you play. You can even skip past the first two bosses.
Speaking of the bosses, they’re quite difficult. Your bow and arrows only do so much damage against them, and you’ll find that you must move quickly if you want to win. This is because the entire time you’re firing, your foes are sending spread shots that make it almost impossible to survive more than perhaps a half-minute. Boss battles are therefore brief, but they never really have the variety you might hope for. They’re just something you survive as best you can before you get back to the usual routine.
The game’s other disappointment is your kiwi’s occasional failure to control well. If you try and jump without being in the middle of a decent run, you may or may not get far at all. To make matters worse, there are numerous times when a failure to make a precision leap will cost you a life. Still, plenty of other games suffer from this flaw and never really rise above it. Kiwi Kraze is not one such title. Instead, it manages to make you look past its flaws. A few minutes after your most recent effort, you’ll quite possibly find yourself looking back at the NES, thinking one more round doesn’t sound bad at all. And then it will turn into two. Or three. Need I say more?
Staff review by Jason Venter (February 06, 2005)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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