For several months PS3 owners have been most jealous of their 360 counterparts as they’ve been the recipients of all the NinjaBee goodness. Fortunately for the Sony lovers, NinjaBee heard their cries and recently released Akimi Village. As a game that I like to call Keflings version 1.5, how does it hold up to previous offerings?
I first played the game about a month ago at E3 and found myself very envious of PS3 owners since we hadn’t acquired one yet. I instantly loved how familiar yet different it was, and I wanted to play more than I was able to. For a game to draw me in after only playing it for 9 minutes or so, and for it to make me want to plunk down a couple hundred bucks on a PS3, is a triumph in itself.
Akimi Village starts out with you choosing between two characters: Matthew and Norah. Matthew arrived at the village by falling asleep in a barn and then waking up there while Norah was camping with friends and found herself in the same situation. Unlike Keflings there is no ability to use your avatar or other custom character. Instead players can decide if they prefer Matthew with his ebony Kid ‘n Play hair and boots that are similar to those of Rikku in Final Fantasy X, or Norah, who really only stands out because she’s the female playable and has fiery red coif.
When you make your selection a wise old raccoon looking creature known as a tanuki tells you what is needed of you in order to return home. Gloom has fallen on the village and it is up to you to remove debris, plant radiant trees, and much more. Only once all of the gloom is removed can you return home, so while it seems like quite the undertaking, the strong similarities to Keflings make the game warm and inviting.
Those who are familiar with the two available Keflings games on XBLA will notice how Akimi Village is more advanced than A Kingdom for Keflings yet not quite as polished as World. Akimi Village and A World of Keflings were under development at the same time so not all features from World were put into Akimi, and some things found in Akimi didn’t make it into World. One feature that was noticeably missing was the ability to move your buildings around simply by shoving them. It was introduced in A World of Keflings and was a huge help when you needed to move things around. Instead it was like how, in Kingdom, one smashed the buildings and they would break apart into their respective pieces only for you to relocate the entire structure piece by piece.
You also will not have the moving help like you did in World with the Akimi. Maybe it’s due to their cute, tiny size but don’t expect any heavy lifting from them. While the presence of the Brothers was missed in Akimi, because the extra hands would’ve helped and prevented me from feeling like I was doing a lot of back and forth, it wasn’t a deal breaker. Also missing is the ability to individually level up your Akimi. In World you’d see an exclamation mark appear above the Keflings heads, indicating that you needed to give them a good smacking so that they’d level up. If my memory serves me correct you were able to level up each Kefling to 3, but NinjaBee made sure to include special buildings in Akimi to give some form of character building.
The Dojo and Rickshaw schools each have their own individual purposes. When placing workers in the Dojo it allows them to work harder and carry more resources. I’ve read some reviews for the game where they say that it’s difficult to tell who has gone through the Dojo and who hasn’t, as the only indication is through there being a little knapsack on the Akimi’s back, but I didn’t experience any problems. Should a situation like that arise where you don’t know who has gone through and who hasn’t, give the right thumbstick a bit of a tilt and you will zoom in. Problem solved.
For the Rickshaw school, this is exclusively for the Akimi you have designated as transporters. Rather than moving everything in pieces, these guys have fancy little rickshaws that they scuttle around with. I never was able to find out if the rickshaw Akimi were able to carry more than the transporter Keflings, but I would imagine so. When the Akimi go through the school they, like their Dojo counterparts, become more efficient and effective in their task. Other than those two special buildings, there is no way to promote or level up your Akimi or your character.
There is the new addition of being able to fully level up a building, which was a welcome twist, and the more you used the building the faster you were able to upgrade it. When giving a building an upgrade it actually physically changed, reflecting the overall transformation. Some buildings, like the sculptor and gardener, really benefit from leveling up because it unlocks other items you can create and build with. Eventually, when you use the gardener so much, you can create trees and plant them in random places on the island to remove pockets of gloom you can’t otherwise get rid of. It comes in handy, but make sure if you’re going for the trophy that is given to you if you remove all of the prior to building the Dragon Gate or Grand Dragon Gate that you have, and I kid you not, every single speck of gloom removed. I went for it and had a small area next to the edge of the island with some so that’s the only trophy I’m missing. As a side note, if you go for that trophy, you will be unable to use the portals as they will take you home and end the game once you do. I, also, made the mistake of doing that however it didn’t ruin any trophy chances as I was able to resume the game and continue. It was just a hassle still having to construct buildings yet have no portal to make things easier.
Akimi Village is chock-full of detail and has a heavy Asian flare. Each Akimi changes their skin color and outfit depending on the job you assign to them, unlike Keflings where all they had was a basic hat change. For one of the buildings, the Akimi had one of those little Fu Manchu mustaches. I found that to be rather hilarious. That higher level of detail helped make it easier for me to see which Akimi’s I had working. Those working on bundling the hay at the farm had little straw hats, a piece of hay sticking out of their mouths, and were colored yellow while those working on the spirit wells had black and purple outfits with blue skin. The buildings also had a lot of detail, and I highly advise you all that, once you complete the game, to zoom in and walk around. I saw a crane walking around in my water fountain I created, atop the Grand Dragon Gate is the NinjaBee mascot, and they all carried with that Asian theme with pagoda roofs and other embellishments. Some players of the game have complained that there are more random buildings that aren’t necessary in terms of the plot, but I enjoyed them and felt that they added to the overall aesthetics. Besides, to be able to walk past the Lotto and hear the clink and clank of slot machines is pretty awesome.
Speaking of sound effects and music, Akimi Village takes players in a totally different direction. For some of the game I wore a headset and was shocked at just how rich and layered the game was. I could hear the grass crunching below my feet, the soft trickle of water, and other great sounds that were very soothing. The game soundtrack is equally pleasing and it should be since the same man behind the Keflings tunes scored Akimi. Unlike his folksy offerings in Keflings, Akimi has more of a global trance feel. Again that Asian theme is carried with the flute, Pacific Islander tribal beats, and a dash of light Bhagra. Throughout your playtime you will notice when the soundtrack shifts due to the time of day it is (not in real life, but in the game) because there are no seasons in Akimi Village. Rather than seeing snow on the ground, autumn leaves blowing about, and the sharp rays of the sun, Akimi takes players through just a regular day with sunrise, sunset, and the beauty of the night.
One thing I immediately loved about Akimi Village was how I could get right into things. One feature of Keflings that I found to be frustrating was how I couldn’t mine or go for a particular resource without the proper tool or ability. In Akimi the only thing I’m unable to go for right from the get-go are the piles of debris, and that really isn’t a priority when first starting out. I was able to go for my bamboo, wood, stone, and eventually spirit from the wells once I had a shrine nearby and the area was uncovered by gloom. Also, there are no unlimited resources anymore. For awhile I thought that some of the piles near the edge would provide me with infinite stone or bamboo, but instead each cluster gives players more to collect. Gone are the sections where a stone will only give you 10-15 pieces.
A problem I did have with the resource change is that everything is so heavily clustered and I didn’t feel like I had enough room to build everything that was unlocked with a blueprint, so I had to make my Akimi really work and raze through the island. If you’re thinking to yourself that the lack of infinite resources is a drawback because there is a chance of running out, even though it’s difficult to get to that point, the game will give you a seed at the large gate, same place you pick up the acorns for your radiant trees, and you can plant that to get some more. I will advise that you keep almost all of your resources in their natural form because, should you turn all of your bamboo into paper, you can’t knock it back and change the conversion.
A new feature that instantly blew me away was how buildings shared resources. Gone are the days where you have to create large bulks of resources only to have to carry them to a nearby building. All of our resources are shared across the island. Granted there are still some buildings that only accept certain resources, but if that resource is used anywhere else you don’t have to worry about transporting. This most welcome addition not only made the game go by a lot faster, which is both good and bad (because I was really enjoying myself), but it helped prevent me from having to grind and do a mindless, repetitive task. That is always a good thing. A very, very good thing.
Aside from being able to remove the gloom via radiant trees that you plant in spirit wells, culture helps spread your light. It heavily reminded me of how, in Civilization, when your culture is strong it spreads across your borders and influences other nations. Obviously I can’t take over the French or those cursed Greeks, but knowing that I can help push the boundaries of my borders and dispel the gloom at a faster rate is a great addition to the genre. Also when playing the Keflings games, the only thing required of me is to build the necessary structures and then it was game over. In Akimi there is strategy involved such as where you place your shrines, gardeners, and other structures as they influence how far your culture reaches.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I loved Akimi Village. The missing elements from A World of Keflings didn’t really have any negative impact on how I’d enjoy the game as I looked at it as an entirely new experience, and the amount of detail really blew me away. NinjaBee is, hands down, one of my favorite indie developers and I always look forward to their next thing because I know that it will be a ton of fun and worth every penny.
Akimi Village is available now, exclusively through PSN, for only $9.99. Download it and I promise you won’t be disappointed!
|A ton of fun, new gameplay elements, shared inventory, plentiful resources, high attention to detail, great soundtrack||Can't shove buildings, issue with the portal in story mode|