Super Kiwi 64 looks like it’s up to something. There’s a shrewd energy about it that’s impossible to ignore. Players of previous Siactro games might have expected this, but it’s not just the same thing. Super Kiwi 64 is bizarre in its own way, presenting a new tour through the mind of this indie developer.
Kiwi opens into a central area that connects eight main levels for an N64-style non-linear item collection platform. It looks like it’s been perfectly preserved in ice since the days of the N64’s Silicon Graphics Reality coprocessor. It could have been released in 1999, also copying Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. Even then, however, we would have been a little wary, as the level of trim doesn’t live up to those titles. But despite that, it just feels like there’s Something happening – something weird.
From the first level, the messy edges were right in our face. The camera, for example, has a laissez-faire attitude towards the solidity of objects in the environment and will be happy to cut through any landscape you like… But is it something pass with that? We naturally used the camera to spy through the walls and see where we should try to reach. Was it by design? Are there game mechanics built from seemingly broken 3D principles? Or is it actually an anarchic punk aesthetic where you just have to relax about the camera and your bourgeois expectation that it should participate in the charade of a solid environment? Is the camera deliberately flawed as a parody of itself and an examination of gamers’ expectations of value in AAA game production? Or could it, perhaps, be just a little lame?
This last possibility does not hold very far. Too much Super Kiwi 64 is too polished for this to be a big mistake: the controls are responsive and fun, the movement gimmick of shoving your beak into the wall and jumping to climb (a Mario Odyssey reference?) is satisfying. . On the other hand, the level design is incredibly simple, with a red door that opens the red door and a clear count of collectibles that are rarely hidden well, if at all.
However, the provocative simplicity of everything is so controlled that Siactro must surely do it consciously. Kiwi’s microsecond celebratory pose as he retrieves a jewel is comically undersold compared to Mario’s – now rather over-the-top – whirlwind while collecting a Power Moon. Blink and you’ll miss it but, taken as a joke, it’s perfect. And like the Toree games before it, the scarcity of Super Kiwi 64’s levels is excused by their brevity and very low difficulty. That said, while you can complete the entire game in one to two hours, there is a set of truly mysterious secrets buried within it. Spoiler-free, let’s just say they convinced us that the really damned vibe of the room wasn’t just in our heads.
Our Super Kiwi 64 experience boiled down to this: we had a great time, but couldn’t always tell if it was despite the game or because of it. Either we found a gold coin in a muddy field, or we found Elvis’ face in our mush. If you try, be sure to bring your imagination along with your £2.69.