Kalimba is a colorful and cartoonish platformer that forces you to think outside the box. The thing that sets it apart from other platformers is that you control two players at once. The top and bottom halves are split and moves are mimicked on both sides. If, for example, you jump up top, the other character falls to the bottom. This element allows for some tricky levels and tough maneuvering. The game is not always divided top to bottom, however. Sometimes one player is placed at a distance from the other but on the same platforms.
The brief story focuses on an evil shaman who has cast a dark aura over a mountain. As you complete each level, totems are unlocked that, when stacked, cause the evil aura to disperse. After roughly six levels you are challenged with a boss battle that blocks access to the next world. These boss battles highlight the abilities of the current characters and test of your ability to master them. New worlds allow you to take control of new characters that come with unique abilities.
Between the three different colored pairs the challenges remain fresh because of their different abilities. Even though they each have their own abilities you always have the ability to flip your characters. For example, if blue is on the bottom and red on top a simple hit of a button will place blue on top and red on bottom. This is an absolute necessity to get through any of the levels. Each level feels very different even though they are very similar. You have to change the way you play the game to accommodate for the way each pair plays. In addition the basic platformer obstacles, there are enemies who, for the most part, follow a pre-determined path. As you advance through the stages you are introduced to slightly more mobile enemies. They are never very difficult to pass or defeat and are often more of an inconvenience than an actual threat. The real challenges come from the level layouts themselves.
Each level contains multiple built in obstacles. Moving parts, dead zones, and reversed gravity just to name a few. Some of these obstacles are tricky on their own but the real struggle comes when they are combined. This is largely due to the simultaneous control you are given. Although the control you have is mimicked from top to bottom, the level layout is not symmetrical. There can be obstacles on one half that don’t exist on the other. This forces you to be quick with your decision-making and precise with your timing. Of course mistakes will be made and you will fail plenty of times; I know I did. Don’t let the mistakes haunt you. The game features a sort of checkpoint feature so you will rarely have to completely restart a level.
Rather than a standard “star” based reward system, Kalimba offers you totems. If you do well you get a golden totem, if you do OK you get the standard and if you pass, but perform poorly, you get a log totem. The rank is determined by the amount of collectible pieces you collect (similar to rings in Sonic games) and how many times you failed. The failures are subtracted from the pieces collected and the overall score determines your totem. The totems stack on the world screen and are a good way to monitor your progress throughout the game.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Kalimba. It combined many features from platformers I previously played. Anti-gravity elements, character switching, movements being mirrored, etc. Not only were they mixed together but the were done so in an excellent manner. The levels remained fresh and challenging throughout but rarely difficult to the point of frustration. It was truly one of the perfectly executed platformers that I have played thus far.
Disclaimer: Kalimba does feature a co-op mode. I was unable to experience this part of the game because I had no one to enjoy it with. However, I did read up on it from various sources and the resounding opinion was that it was very well done. So although I can’t give a personal opinion on the game mode, it seems as though it does nothing more than add to the already fun gameplay.