STAFF REVIEW of KeyWe (Xbox One)

Friday, March 18, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

KeyWe Box art Having been to New Zealand numerous times, I’ve always been intrigued by the Kiwi, a unique bird that has tiny wings yet cannot fly, nor has a tail, and its feathers are more fur-like rather than traditional feathers we think of. So being one of the world’s most unique flightless birds, developers Stonewheat & Sons came up with the idea to make a game featuring them running a post office. Yes, you heard that right, a pair of small kiwi birds running a mail room is the idea behind the adorable game, KeyWe.

Don’t let its adorable birds fool you though, KeyWe is a frantic but fun cooperative game where you’ll be tasked with keeping things running. Doing so isn’t easy for regular workers, so managing the business as some birds without arms, hands or the ability to fly is surely going to be a bigger challenge. Regardless, it’s up to your pair of adorable kiwis to ensure people get their mail and packages sent out on time and correctly, so get ready to jump, peck and butt slam to get the job done.

The mailroom here though isn’t your typical kind, as this was clearly built for a different animal or creature to manage and work at. Because kiwis are so small and light, this will make your job much tougher for your duo. While able to be played in single player, trust me, you’ll want to grab a friend or family member to play alongside with, locally or online, as trying to fulfil these tasks solo while controlling both birds is nowhere near as possible or as fun.

Mailroom tasks are simple in premise, but will need a coordinated effort and constant communication from your co-op partner since you’ll face some unique challenges, like large bugs that will try to pick you up and take you away, move supplies around on you, or wind and dust storms that will toss you around due to your small stature.

To make the kiwis even cuter somehow, you’re able to spend your earned stamps for completing levels within specific times (bronze, silver and gold ratings) on adorable and hilarious accessories to customize your birds how you like. Choose from a range of hats, glasses, backpacks, feather colors and more, some only attainable from playing specific minigames repeatedly or finding hidden items in levels. Being able to unlock new wardrobe and accessories is what kept me wanting to play, able to distinguish the two drastically to make them more unique looking from one another so I didn’t get mixed up with who is whom when mail is frantically flying around.

There are basically four different main level types, and while that doesn’t seem like much, as you progress they become more complex or have new obstacles or steps you need to fulfil to send out the mail. Levels are simple in premise, but can be complex to actually perform your job, striking a balance of fun and challenge that will depend on your chosen partner to play with.

The first of the four main levels revolves around typing a short notice or letter and then having it sent out for delivery. Thing is, this is done on a typewriter, but the keys are all spread out across the room. Remember, you’re a tiny kiwi bird, so you’re only going to be able to jump on one key at a time before moving to the next to finish each word. And yes, there’s a Shift key that you’ll need to coordinate with your partner to press down if you want to capitalize any of the letters, and yes, spelling counts. Make a mistake and you’ll need to run over and peck at the delete key and then resume typing out the word listed on the telegraph. In the later levels, letters get swapped for symbols and you need to refer to the legend to see which symbol replaces what letter, or a pair of letters might get completely swapped for one another, so you need to pay attention. Extra obstacles come into play as well, like vines that block you using specific keys until you peck the flowers away, or flying bugs that will pop off they key caps, forcing you to go grab it and replace it on the typewriter.

The crate shipping level was one of my favorites, having you do a little more thinking. Down the moving conveyor a crate will come and you’ll need to read the included note to figure out where it’s being sent and which stickers you’ll need to affix to the package. For example, you can see the city or town it’s going to, and to print that label you need to type in the correct four digit code laid out on a map. If the letter mentions something is heavy, then it will need the appropriate Heavy label also attached to the top of the crate, or maybe it’s Urgent or Perishable, so you need to carefully read to choose the correct sticker(s). With your kiwi partner, you’ll then need to use a crane to move the heavy lid onto the box once the item is inside, done so by two different levers; one for horizontal movement and the other for vertical. Lastly, to ship the parcel you need to choose if it’s going North or South, determined by where the town code you read is positioned on the map. It sounds confusing but makes sense once you get a few crates shipped under your belt. Carful of the quicksand in later levels.

Next is the chaotic mail room that is managed by a friendly octopus. This is where a bulk of the sorting is done for parcels and mail. Parcels come down two conveyors and need to be moved to the correct outgoing chute, but they must stay on the belt, so you’ll need to move certain ones out of the way to get them passed into the correct chute until all are sent. Then there’s the mail itself, having you looking at the panel to show which person’s mail to send that is circling on a rotating platform. Get the correct mail and send it to the outbox to have it go on its way. The later levels add some interesting variety, like being able to shoot mail into the slots with cannons and more. This is probably the most chaotic of the levels because so much is going on and you don’t always know what to focus on first. Do you both work towards the parcels first then mail, or split up and each take on one responsibility separately?

Lastly, and another one I quite enjoy, is the room where you’ll create brief letters from snipped out magazines or papers, like a ransom note. Sometimes the full words are cut out, sometimes it’s just a small part of a word or a few letters. These are scattered all throughout the room, so you’ll need to find each snipping and place them in order. This is of course only after you grab the tape lying around and put it into the player to get the phrase you need to make on paper. Once complete, bring the note to the animal waiting at the window ready to go by putting it in their backpack and fastening their buckles so it doesn’t fall out. Later levels become quite challenging too, with bugs that will move around the clippings or small tornadoes that fling you and the snippings around.

There’s enough variety and new things thrown into the four main levels as you progress through each season that it feels fresh throughout. This would have been fine enough, but there’s also a plethora of minigames, called Overtime Shifts. These are completely optional and add some unique variety. There’s a handful to check out, but the most satisfying one was by far the one where you’re tasked with popping bubble wrap, being told how many small, medium or large bubbles to pop within a certain time limit. These extra games are how you’ll earn some of the exclusive cosmetic items as well, so they make it worthwhile to spend some time playing and some will even offer extra stamps for completion, enticing you to play more than just the campaign.

As noted above, KeyWe is almost required to play co-op. Single player is absolutely possible but defeats the purpose and is incredibly challenging to even do so, trying to control both birds simultaneously with one controller. Find a friend or family member and KeyWe becomes a great time to laugh and swear at one another. It takes a surprising amount of communication if you want any chance at the silver or gold completion times, knowing what task the other is going to be responsible for and working in unison. I played alongside my daughter and we eventually figured out who was going to do what in each level, then it started to gel and become quite fun working together. I can see this being a hilarious game with some buddies over after a few drinks trying to coordinate with one another and calling each other names for failing to do the right task at the correct time because they forgot again to hold down the Shift key when you were trying to use the typewriter.

I’d wager that there may not be a cuter bird than the kiwi, and while I may be a little bias because my wife is from New Zealand and I love the country, KeyWe is an adorable co-op game that was a fun experience throughout, never really frustrating due to the game design. Find a partner to play with and you’ll have a great time laughing or swearing at one another depending on your communication skills. Being a delightful co-op game, I’d butt slam the recommended button if I was a small kiwi bird.

**KeyWe was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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