Kivi's Underworld

Several years ago Soldak Entertainment released Depths of Peril, a game that took some of the addictive elements of Diablo II and married them to a framework for inter-player competition. The graphics were simple but effective, and the controls were instinctive. I ended up not playing it as much as I’d have liked to in part because it has a “kitchen sink” feel. There were so many options in the game, available from the very start, that I ended up not motivated, but paralyzed.

Kivi’s Underworld is a similar game, with the fat trimmed out. It is a better game for it.

The game begins with the story of a young warrior, Kivi, who sets off on a quest to save his people from the threat of annihilation by Dark Elves. As the game progresses, you can unlock levels and additional character types. Each level in the game is like a cleverly designed level of Diablo: there are enemies to kill, treasure to loot, and secrets to discover. Use move (and fight) by pointing and clicking.

One change from Depths of Peril that has already upset the hardcore gaming class is that lack of inventory management. In Kivi you don’t seek out new armor or weapons; all enhancements to your character are via skill points spent at level-up. You can pick up up to a few items that can be used as needed to give you a temporary advantage, but that’s it: no more lugging around an entire armory’s worth of plate mail and axes. I’m of the opinion that this is a brilliant improvement, simplifying and streamlining the game down to its essentials.

Kivi shares the isometric view of its predecessor, but I found the palette in the game somehow more attractive and functional. Like Diablo, it will run on systems with even fairly modest hardware, while still looking good. Why more publishers don’t commit to making the tradeoffs needed to make that happen I may never understand.

Kivi’s Underworld is simple to play and offers hours of engrossing straightforward entertainment, for both Mac and PC.

Disclosure: Soldak Entertainment graciously provided a copy of Kivi’s Underworld for review.