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We got a sneak peak at the addictive new puzzle-platformer Kalimba, and it’s amazing

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when I say Kalimba? That’s right people, it’s a finger piano originating from Africa, also known as the Mbira. Wait a minute! No it’s not – it’s Press Play’s soon to be megahit on Xbox One.

This game started life as Project Totem, and there’s a good reason for that. One, the game focuses on totems, and two, well it was a project. The latter reason isn’t as impressive as the first. The result however, is a joyous little game. Press Play are known for in my house at least, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.

I recently jumped at the opportunity to play a pre-release of Kalimba. It only cost me $15,000 but I’ve been told my return on investment gets me an official Kalimba hat, so that’s cool.

Kalimba is a game made up of triangles, and through it you’re guided by what I’d best describe as a triangular sassy bear called Hoebear. Kalimba is also the island the game takes place on. Graphically this game is impressive considering everything’s made up of triangles. It’s a more pleasing aesthetic than little square blocks – which is probably why polygons are made of triangles too (well, there’s more to it than that, but shut up). 

Hoebear proceeds to tell you about this happy little island and the big lovely totem pole that the little islanders love so much, but then a big evil shaman comes along, and messes shit up just for the hell of it. Luckily though, there’s a good shaman who can control totem segments to rebuild the totem, and restore peace.

You control two totem pieces through sidescrolling sections at the same time, they’re different colours and can only move through corresponding colours (purple through purple, green through green, for instance). Now whilst their movement is in sync their environment often isn’t. You have to work out how to get through the level. It starts off as an atypical platformer. Jump, jump, jump and the game makers are well aware of that, as Hoebear will tell you, but they’re keen to get you used to the game before throwing you in at the deep end. 

Smack! There’s the deep end. Before you know it, new mechanics are being added that drastically change how the game plays. I’d rather not go into them, so you experience them for yourself, but will I will say is this, the puzzles are great and you feel like a bloody genius when you’ve completed some of them. I’m hoping that isn’t my flu-brain talking, but as I played I grinned from ear to ear when I passed a particularly difficult section. That’s probably partly because previous to that I was throwing out as many expletives as possible.

What stood out was the simplicity of the game, and how difficult it can be because of that. Puzzles are right in front of you, but you will be smacked in the face when you do them wrongly, which WILL happen because you’re a just a high school drop out, amounting to nothing, whilst trying to get one up on your more successful friends by climbing up that leaderboard. Woah, things got dark there.

I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this game before. It’s unique, and fun with it. I get the impression the totem you’re creating is unique too as it transforms depending on level deaths, etc. As early as the third level, I was getting pretty confused by a falling section – that’s exactly where difficulty needs to be in these sort of games. Puzzle platformers shouldn’t be holding your hand all the way through the game, and Press Play seem to have nailed that.

I played eight levels of this game, one of which was a boss fight. I’m looking forward to continuing on where I left off, because now I need to buy the bloody thing to complete the story. Keep your eyes peeled for Kalimba when it hits the Xbox Store, on Xbox One on December 17th 2014 (January 2015 on the PC).

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