Previously quite the hit on PC and console, Kalimba deserves to be just as big a hit on iOS. The game is a puzzle platformer that you can play alone or with another (if you’re on an iPad). It’ll cause some head scratching moments and require you to have some quick reflexes, but it’s a great deal of fun too.
You play two colored totem pole pieces simultaneously. Each movement you make is reflected in both their activities, meaning there’s plenty to keep an eye on. One is located on the top half of the screen while the other is at the bottom half. Any time you jump, they both jump and so forth. Sometimes it’s all too easy to be distracted by one but not the other, and that’s where the challenge comes into play.
Controls are, fortunately, simple enough. A virtual sliding d-pad helps them move left or right with one button for jumping and one for swapping color. Yup, their color affects things too. You see, the totem pieces can only run through a colored barrier that matches with them. No match? Well, the totem piece ‘dies’ and you go back to an earlier checkpoint.
Early on, this is a pretty easy mechanic to get used to. Fairly swiftly though, you’re required to change color mid jump in order to traverse the odd obstacle or two. It takes some speedy taps which makes you long for the virtual buttons to be a little bigger or the tactile nature of a ‘real’ controller, but it’s worth overcoming.
You’ll mostly be focused on leaping in unison or using barriers to ensure one totem is further back than the other. At other times time, you might need to have one totem standing on another, while quickly switching colors to traverse some colored barriers. There’s no need for a tutorial as it’s all fairly intuitive, although do expect to die frequently. Fortunately, Kalimba is pretty generous when it comes to checkpointing. You’ll rarely go particularly far back in the level.
Kalimba eventually introduces some gravity defying moments, adding to the formula and making things that bit more taxing. It’s occasionally infuriating but mostly, you’ll forgive it because it’s fun. It’s also oddly cute. While the totems aren’t immediately adorable, they grow on you as you work to keep them both alive at all times.
The game backs this all up through a steady stream of congratulations. There are Game Center achievements to unlock, along with leaderboards to compete with your friends via. Secret challenge rooms are also available, along with gold totems to collect. It’s all fairly substantial and the perfect indication that this was once a more significant release for PC and console. It’s sure to take you a fair few hours to complete too, with plenty to enjoy along the way.
Feeling suitably like a ‘proper’ premium release, Kalimba is a delight through and through — and that’s just on the iPhone. On the iPad, you have the benefit of same device co-op which makes it all the more satisfying, while also potentially testing a few friendships too. Stick with those occasionally infuriating moments though, and you’ll be richly rewarded by an incredibly charming crossover of quick reflexes and lateral thinking.