Kolibri (Sega 32X) review
"Arguably the best hummingbird/scrolling shooter hybrid on the SEGA 32X"
Grab two pens. Donít stare at the screen, donít keep reading onwards to see what Iím going to do next. Two pens. Go and get them.
I can wait all day. Iím just lines of text on a monitor, after all.
Iím going to assume you now have two pens.
Cross your right arm over the top of your left one and count to four. On each count, tap your desk once with the pen in your right hand. At the same time, on the count of one and three, tap you right foot. On the count of two and four, tap the pen in you left on the desk. Practise for a little while and you should get it down quite easily.
Congratulations. You can now play a very basic 4:4 beat. You are now more accomplished musicians than most of the people who work within metal.
Instead of counting just to four, add the word Ďandí in between each number. Add a strike with your right hand for each and as well, giving you eight taps instead of four. This should still be reasonably easy. Now, on every second and, donít hit with your right and tap your left foot. On every third and, include another strike with your left. Hereís a prediction for you: youíll fail miserably.
Striking on the Ďandí is called striking offbeat, and itís bloody hard to pull off. Thereís a certain mechanicalism to 4:4 beats (and 3:3 if youíre a dirty jazz hippy) that resonates with our natural timing. Striking offbeat doesnít come naturally to most people and, even though it can produce some truly memorable baselines when performed correctly, most of the time itís either completely counter-productive or not significantly noticeable enough to warrant all the extra effort employed.
Can you see how Iím using this as an intro to a video game review yet?
Kolibri is a game about a hummingbird who can shoot homing lasers from its eyes.
Things start out serenely. Larking around in a lush open field, your hummingbird friend has nothing to fret other than the warty frog relaxing on a grassy outcrop that will gobble you up if you move in too close. Ladybugs trickle down the lazy scenery while groups of rival hummingbirds gently nudge you away from their designated patches of pollen-flowing flowerbeds. Youíre free to explore your surroundings; the screen scrolls with you rather than forcing you along a set path, letting you glide past busy beehives, through swarms of fluttering butterflies and across yards of tranquil layered backdrops depicting pastel forestry, distant waterfalls and forever rolling greenery.
The next stage has you fighting off hordes of fireball-spewing wasps who make the flowerbeds their new home. Successfully drive them away by pelting them with cascading bombs that split into starbursts or a flowing stream of heat-seeking geometrical shapes, and your fellow hummingbirds reclaim lost turf, presenting you with the ability to absorb one more hit from your insectile transgressors. Ladybugs that once tumbled around you playfully now become bouncing bombs; the hives of hornets that used to serve as nothing more than ambience now attack in hard-to-hit swarms and huge bulbous bugs barricade sections of the screen until you tempt them outside their comfort zone and flood them with non-stop aggression.
In these stages, you remain free to wander around the beautifully-laired backdrops as you please. You can drift down ravines, ploughing flaming rings into the backsides of hulking caterpillars that die in a serenade of flashing plasma or surge across plateaus with a touch of your dash command. Kolibriís shooter heart is only explored further upon when, instead of recycling the same levels in a differing coat of paint, your hummingbird will have to brave traditional side scrolling stages filled with wriggling eels and fluttering dragonflies hovering over the murky waters of a bayou.
Delve even further into the game, and find that itís not just a surreal shooter; it also has a brain.
Maze-like stages have you searching for special attacks that allow you to destroy rocky walls that bar your progression onwards, adding a distinct puzzle sheen on top of an already atypical shooter. These stages stack the odds, making you search claustrophobic caves that can level you with super-sized drops of condensation should you fail to time a desperate dash through a storm of smaller drips wrong or forcing you to navigate corridors with strong headwinds that try to redirect you into the hungry mouths of nearby toads or lizards. You have to move bombs into strategic positions, but have to select which weapons you nudge the explosive along with carefully; pick one of the weaker beams, and all youíll supply is enough push to get it from A to B. Anything with more kick to it leads to nothing but premature detonation. And itís not like the on-screen host of nasties will nonchalantly stand aside and allow your fiddly progress to continue without obstacle.
Kolibri is a Frankensteinís monsters of sorts; an experience cobbled together from an unapologetic mishmash of genres and ideas that all cumulate into an experience best described as offbeat. Itís a game designed by outside the box thinking that defies the usual mechanics we have long accepted to be safe, and, instead, tries to be something familiarly different. The concept it champions is brave and, if you take the time to look beneath the surface, could have easily ended up as top-heavy gaming, an overloaded pallet of content bursting at the seams. Too busy, lacking focus.
Itís not. Itís the perfect offbeat baseline. The extra effort was more than worthwhile.
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