Visually, Kalimba is gorgeous. The game features an aesthetically pleasing minimalist design that is full of geometric shapes that come to life. Everything is rendered in 2-D with bright and vibrant colors and amazing textures. The totems and narrator have distinctive appearances so it’s always easy to tell each character apart from one another. Environments dynamically change once the toggles get activated, and it’s all done in a seamless transition that’s rather mesmerizing with particle effects. Animations in Kalimba are buttery smooth and fluid, with zero lag on my iPhone 7. There’s also voice acting through the narration, and it’s incredibly well done. A quirky soundtrack plays in the background, which fits in with the overall quirky theme of the game. Overall, Kalimba is beautifully designed inside and out in terms of visual and audio.
Like many other puzzle platformers, Kalimba is level-based, and players must progress through the game one stage at a time. The story of Kalimba involves a good and evil shaman, with the latter overcoming the former and spreading darkness throughout the land. But the spirit of the good shaman is able to possess totems in order to restore the light to the land. And that’s where the player comes in.
To help the shaman with the ultimate goal, one must help guide the two totems simultaneously through treacherous environments to rebuild the original totem pole. Your score on each stage is determined by the number of pickups you’ve collected, and any deaths will deduct from that. Otherwise, there are no stars to collect, and no time limit, so you can enjoy Kalimba at your own pace.
The controls in Kalimba are easy and intuitive. In the bottom left corner are directional buttons that let the totem pieces move left and right. On the other side are the action buttons, letting players make the totem pieces jump and swap places. Remember — the totems move together simultaneously, so when you need one to jump, the other one does too. And sometimes only one totem can pass through a specific colored barrier, so the timing of swapping is key.
My testing of the game was with my iPhone. But for iPad players, there’s an iPad-only co-op mode where two players can work together on one device. I wasn’t able to test this out, but the developers say it can “make or break any friendship,” so take heed!
The real challenge with Kalimba is collecting all of the golden totems. These elusive totems are only earned by collecting all pickups on a stage without dying. Considering the difficulty of the game as you go, this is much easier said than done. To keep players coming back, there are secret challenge rooms too, in case you’re looking for more replay value.
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