Quirky co-op games are all the rage these days but does KeyWe stand a chance to deliver the thrills? Or is this one attempted delivery best left undelivered?
KeyWe is a ridiculous concept. Two Kiwi birds have been given charge of a post office and they are tasked with running the place, which means getting the mail out, getting the mail in, writing messages, and deciphering incoming telegrams. But why Kiwi birds? I’ve no idea why, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that these flightless birds (Jeff and Debra) are actually really fun to play as – they have no arms so they have to make do with smashing everything with their bums or pecking away with their beaks.
KeyWe is a co-op game through and through, and while there is a solid single-player made that’s fun to play, I much prefer playing co-op, especially after watching my other half getting far too excited about two little birdies playing postmasters.
Our first task was to get through the quick tutorial and then we were in a lovely old-fashioned post office with an old rickety typewriter-style keyboard. Our task was to punch in the message that was displayed, and that meant sending our little birds across the screen to smash their bums on the correct letters. With the keys being split across the screen, we had to agree on-the-fly as to who would do what.
Communication is key because you’re awarded stamps for completing levels quickly. The quicker you complete the task, the more stamps you are awarded. Our first effort wasn’t bad but when we came back to the opening level later on after having gained some experience with the other levels, we smashed it and beat the gold time for maximum stamps.
The levels got progressively more complicated but not necessarily more difficult. The learning curve was smooth and fair and even for my non-gaming partner, the game was easy to play and follow along. Neither of us got overly stressed or annoyed because the game was throwing too much at us. The challenge always felt fair and the new additions in each level were nicely explained.
A level further on in the demo had us shipping a box. This required us to complete several tasks, like labelling the box correctly and setting the conveyor belt to send the package either north or south. Each task was made easier by working together to get the job done, even if it meant shouting instructions to each other despite being sat inches apart in front of the PC.
Another level took us back to the familiar typewriter to tap out more messages, only this time it was covered in vines and flowers. This is where things took an interesting turn. Thus far, we’d had it fairly good and we were coasting. I’m talking about the game, not our stale relationship. But then the game took off the training wheels and made us really work for our stamps.
This level had us sending our birds across the screen to type the incoming messages by smashing the keys with our feathery bums, but we’d have to contend with the vines covering letters or even throwing them away, forcing us to fix the keys so that we could carry on. To further add some drama to the post office antics, I got myself eaten by a flower pod, which meant my partner had to come running to the rescue to set me free so that we could continue. This happened a few times and mostly to me because I’m a clumsy clut. Avoiding the traps and sporting the hindrances quickly was essential to getting a half-decent time in this particular level, and while it was a little more challenging and had the potential to frustrate, it didn’t take it too far.
I had a good time playing KeyWe. It was silly, enjoyable fun that didn’t get stale, even after an hour of playing. I’m looking forward to seeing what the full release brings when the game releases later this year. One thing I’m a little wary of is that younger players may be left out in the cold. I know my boy Charlie will see the game and want to jump in, but at five years old, his reading skills are still a work-in-progress, meaning he would really struggle to play. Other co-op games, such as Overcooked (the default comparison for all co-op games these days…) does well by using imagery and icons, whereas KeyWe relies on words, letters, and numbers. It’s the only complaint I’ve got so far, which means the game is probably going to be aces when it releases. Plus, it’s a great excuse to play games with the boy. It counts as teaching, right?
Preview Disclaimer: This preview was carried out using a PC code provided by the publisher.