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Pole Positioning: Initial Thoughts On Kalimba

Chill out, purple totem. What could go wrong?

Kalimba. It’s a lovely word to say and, pleasingly, a lovely game to play so far. I’m working on a Wot I Think but given the game came out yesterday on Steam and the WIT won’t be able to be completed before Monday I thought I’d share some initial thoughts here and now.

Kalimba [official site] is a puzzle platformer (initially on console) where you control two coloured pieces of totem pole, moving them about simultaneously in order to solve problems and reach the larger totem piece at the end of the level.

At first the actions available to you are limited – you can swap the positions of the two pieces in order to match the colours to go through same-coloured walls, pile them one atop the other in order to reach higher with jumps and use the landscape to alter the position of your pieces relative to one another. Later you’ll find other tools – there’s a switch which changes how gravity works, drawing your totem pieces to the centre or the edges of the screen, and another which makes one of your pieces bigger, capable of destroying some of the walls and enemies.

So far it’s been a pleasure to explore. I’m coming up to halfway through the main story so there’s obviously a chance it’ll go horribly wrong BUT currently I’m pleased. The controls are really tight and intuitive and the levels satisfying. I’m also really fond of the art style. It’s heavy on triangles and the stylised animals of each totem piece you collect have a lovely cheekiness to them.

Here’s the Xbox trailer so you can get a better idea of what I mean:

The only problem I have is that these totem pieces get graded depending on how well you do. If you collect all the tokens in a level you get the golden totem piece. If you don’t (or if you die and thus have tokens deducted) you’ll get a lesser piece. I actually prefer the second-best tier of totem because it’s really colourful and has snazzy accessories. But on some levels I have done so badly and died so many times I have been awarded just a chunk of wood that doesn’t even look like an animal. THE SHAME. How will I be able to look my parents in the eye with such an incompetent-looking totem pole?

The answer is that I can’t and thus I will not be seeing any relatives until I improve at Kalimba.

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Philippa Warr

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