Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Kivi's Underworld

Kivi's Underworld

Developer: Soldak Entertainment

Publisher: Soldak Entertainment

Release Date: March 11, 2008

System: PC

ESRB Rating: N/A

Official Web site

0:00 James Fudge forwarded me a notice about this "casual hack-and-slash game" a few months ago. I seem to remember it seeming like it was worth at least an hour.

0:01 Ethereal music plays over a simple menu screen, including a glowing blue title with a sword through it. I try to "Play" but it tells me I first have to create a New User. OK then! So, hello to Ace, who plays on the Normal difficulty where "Everything is normal." Tutorial time ... go!

0:04 My character stands with simple armor and a sword in a relatively empty medieval hall. Everything's viewed from an isometric perspective, with inky black edges in the areas I haven't seen. Click on the ground and my guy walks there with some decent animation. Reminds me a lot of Diablo already, except the walking seems a little slower-paced. I can pull levers, step on switches, and use keys to open doors. Pretty standard stuff so far.

0:06 "OK, enough locked doors already. Let's learn about something more interesting: combat." Hey, tutorial author, do you want a job writing Games for Lunch? You already have the pithiness down.

0:08 My first battle is with a skeleton that has his feet stuck to the ground. I click and hold the left mouse button to auto-attack. He attacks back as I do, dealing a good bit of damage. This feels barely interactive to me, but still preferable to the kind of turn-based crap in most RPGs, as far as I'm concerned.

0:09 Right clicking does a power strike, which uses up some of my auto-recharging mana meter. Man, they aren't even ashamed of being a Diablo clone, are they?

0:10 I find a few power-ups scattered about on the ground. We've got an ice blast, a fire blast and an earthquake. The earthquake is by far the best, knocking out skeletons with a good radius.

0:11 The sound balancing here is truly atrocious. No matter how I tweak the knobs in the options menu there's a persistent and annoying low bass throbbing in the background. Every time a skeleton hits me, the clanking is ear-splitting. When I attack a barrel, it's a 50/50 chance whether there's a sound effect at all. Just awful.

0:15 "Your score for each adventure is very important. The higher your score, the better the trophy you will win for that adventure." And a higher score helps feed sick children in Third World countries, right? Oh, it doesn't? But I thought you said it was "very important"?

0:17 I get score bonuses for stuff like destroying a bunch of barrels quickly, finding secret areas, killing enemies, etc.

0:18 Abruptly a message pops up: "Won Adventure. You have successfully completely [sic] the tutorial, and you're ready to help Kivi save the world!" My final score is 1,331. Aww, six more points and I'd be totally LEET!

0:19 "Kivi awoke at home and alive, but he was considered mentally deluded since he willingly left the safety of the vase lumen territory." A vaguely British voice goes on about dark elves, secret books and Kivi being the only hope to hold off a massive attack that no one believes is coming. It's ... pretty bad writing, actually, with even worse vocal delivery. All that matters is my objective: "Find the forgotten city: Defiance."

0:23 I start off in an icy outdoor area, then walk through some stone hallways, kill some skeletons, you know, the usual. The most exciting bit so far has been the "haste" item that makes me run a bit faster.

0:25 Alright! I stumble into a hidden area by sticking around the wall a bit. Inside the area are Scree: fast, red, humanoid attackers with spears. A horde of six or seven attack at once, forcing me to use recently found regeneration and mana-restoring items to help take them out. Now this is more like it!

0:28 Yikes! Large, ogre-like zombies in the next room do a lot more damage than the usual skeletons. I have to back off and use my life steal item to take some health back as I attack them. This is getting tough pretty quick!

0:31 Why does it occasionally take more than one sword swing to open a barrel? It's just a barrel ... just let me open it! Also annoying: I only have three item slots, with no way to save more items for later. I guess this is to encourage you to use the items regularly, but I'm more of a hoarder ... I always worry the items will be more useful later.

0:33 Before a stairway, I run into a Zombie Champion. It looks more like a mummy with horns, but the game says it's a Zombie Champion, so whatever. He takes six or seven hits instead of the normal three or four, and does exactly zero damage to me, as far as I can tell.

0:35 Barrels! Barrels as far as the eye can see! I get 75 bonus points just for clicking on them quickly. E-Z!

0:38 A bunch of Scree attack along with a few zombies and skeletons. It's only because of a quick Life Steal item that I survive the onslaught. I get a close-call bonus for almost dying. After the battle, I notice my energy is slowly increasing for no apparent reason. So I have auto-regenerating health as well as mana? That means ... all I have to do is run away from a battle to get my health back? So much for that sense of impending death...

0:41 Seven skeletons surrounding me means a clicking spree and a killing spree. They do so little damage it's really just an annoyance.

0:44 Skeleton Warriors are, surprise surprise, more powerful skeletons. I'm getting pretty tired of the repetition of the enemies and backgrounds already. It's all such painfully generic sword-and-sorcery stuff.

0:47 I found the entrance to Defiance after whacking through a few Champions and such before the gate. I can continue to explore more (I only found one of six secrets, after all) but instead let's just move on. My final score, 6,821 includes bonuses for killing all the monsters and not dying at all. I still only get a bronze trophy, which gives me one point to add to my stats. Guess I shoulda searched for those secrets...

0:49 "Bloody Fingers" is the second of what looks like 30 chapters in all. The story-book-reader man goes on about how Kivi wants to "explore the secrets" in this new area, but instead he will have to settle for killing the animated skeletons. MORE skeletons?! Ye gods.

0:53 Defiance is the land of green doors, none of which I can open. It's also the land of a lot of poison traps. Big whoop ... if I stand around long enough in an empty area the effect wears off and my life comes back. This fact really hurts the sense of mortal doom I assume they're going for...

0:54 I swear my speakers are going to explode when a lightning bolt goes off with a huge CRAK! This is despite my barely being able to hear the rest of the music and sound effects.

0:57 Another annoyance ... the camera moves as I do, making it hard to click on stuff while I'm in transit. Half the time I click just past my target and wander around instead of attacking. Bleh.

0:59 I've reached a dead end as far as I can tell, with every door requiring a green or blue key to get through. That's OK by me, though, as I don't want to go on anyway.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.

Why? When I played Diablo, I got tired of the incessant click-attacking despite the well-crafted world, interesting characters and complex equipment/spell system. This game seems to have none of that, so I get much less interested much more quickly.

This column is based on a full downloadable copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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