Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Right first time—it was a bird
Super Kiwi 64 feels like it’s up to something. There’s a tricksy energy about it that’s impossible to ignore. Players of Siactro’s earlier games might be expecting that, but this isn’t just more of the same. Super Kiwi 64 is weird in its own special way, presenting a fresh guided tour of this indie developer’s mind.
Kiwi opens in a hub area that connects eight main levels for N64-style non-linear item-collection platforming. It looks like it’s been perfectly preserved in glacial ice since the Silicon Graphics Reality Coprocessor era of the N64. It could have been released in 1999, copycatting equally Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. Even back then, though, we’d have been slightly wary, since the level of polish is not up with those titles. But despite that, it just feels like there is something going on – something weird.
From the very first level, messy edges were right in our face. The camera, for instance, has a laissez-faire attitude to solidity of objects in the environment and will happily just clip through any scenery you like… But is something going on with that? We naturally used the camera to spy through walls and see where we should be trying to get to. Was this by design? Are there game mechanics built out of apparently broken 3D fundamentals? Or is that actually an anarchic punk aesthetic where you need to just chill out 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 player expectations of value in AAA game production? Or could it, maybe, just be a bit rubbish?
That last possibility doesn’t hold up very far. Too much of Super Kiwi 64 is too polished for it all just to be a big mistake: the controls are responsive and fun, the movement gimmick of spiking your beak into the wall and jumping to climb up (a Mario Odyssey reference?) is satisfying. On the other hand, the level design is incredibly simple, with red-key-opens-red-door gating and a clear tally of collectibles that are rarely hidden well, if at all.
However, the defiant simplicity of everything is so controlled that Siactro must surely be doing it consciously. The microsecond celebratory pose of the kiwi as it collects a jewel is comically undersold compared to Mario’s – now rather overblown – twirl when collecting a Power Moon. Blink and you’ll miss it but, taken as a joke, it’s pitch-perfect. And like the Toree games before it, the sparsity of Super Kiwi 64’s levels is excused by their brevity and very low difficulty. That said, while you could finish the whole game in one-to-two hours, it does have a set of genuinely mysterious secrets buried in it. Without spoiling, let’s just say they convinced us that the truly cursed vibe of the piece was not just in our heads.
Our experience of Super Kiwi 64 comes down to this: we were having a good time, but couldn’t always tell if it was despite the game or because of it. Either we’ve found a gold coin in a muddy field or we’ve found the face of Elvis in our porridge. If you’re giving this a go, be sure to bring your imagination along with your £2.69.