It’s not easy being green, when there’s a purple force field between you and the next place to be, but this is why you brought your purple friend along. You can stand on his head, be propelled higher when he jumps or just observe as he negotiates the purple safely, switching places whenever you like. Wait, though. Green forcefield? That means he’s using you, too, for the equal and opposite purpose. You know what else is weird? He moves exactly as you move, all the time.
Kalimba is a puzzle platformer where two characters, the puppets of a shaman’s spirit magic, act as the result of one control scheme. Often, they are on separate tracks, so one will be jumping over a harmless fl oor, where the other would have fallen into some horrendous abyss. It lends the action a strange, “black magic” feeling, to see one half of the team behaving nonsensically. Other times, your actions will stack the totems or utilise terrain for positioning, so they can work together.
The game starts modestly, incrementally adding more ways to play. Soon enough, you will be working with opposing gravitational pull, teleporters and mass cannons. Interestingly, towards the very end of the singleplayer campaign, new mechanics make things noticeably easier. Generally, Kalimba is a difficult game and a gradual slide towards the ending is actually really nice. I’m not great at platformers, so I often give up 90% of the way through, despite wanting to know how things conclude.
The levels are designed so that you learn new tricks slowly, and with enough time to initially think, “Oh, I need to jump, no switch, no jump,” and be able to do exactly that, landing gracefully. A few puzzles later, you are expected to, “jump, switch, switch, jump,” marveling that that actually worked. You knew what to do and you did it first time. Eventually, most puzzles will require multiple attempts and consideration, especially when you are being propelled forwards by ice or enemies.
No matter how many times you die, if you get to the end of a level, you can progress. Cleverly, you collect little musical tokens which add up to making your totem pole pretty. Who cares about pretty? Well, your deaths are subtracted from the final score, making your totem pole ugly. Still don’t care? You will. My totem pole was fabulous at the bottom, then just chunks of wood as it got taller. By the way, if your overall total is zero, you get an ironic clapping sound effect.
There is a co-op mode where, you guessed it, two players control four characters. It’s utter mayhem. I played with my non-gamer spouse. There was much, “Get on top, you asshole,” and, “Stop touching the pink bits, you idiot,” and excited screaming when we actually got to a checkpoint. I have no idea how the neighbours thought we were spending Friday night. It is really confusing. Is it fun? Probably, if both players are very patient.
For the price, there is plenty of content, also including challenges within levels. A $6 DLC will buy you an incredibly difficult, dark campaign. The developers also plan to release more free and paid expansions. It’s a formula you can build on, probably endlessly. With cute art and music that dynamically adds percussion to movement, it’s also nicely presented. Think of Kalimba like synchronised swimming meets Mario, and test your platforming mojo, twofold.