KAMI – PC
Developer: State of Play Games
Publisher: State of Play Games
Release Date: January 23, 2014
ESRB Rating: N/A (Would be E for Everyone)
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
Followers of Shinto revere Kami in many forms. They may be animals, spirits of the deceased, or elemental forces of nature that create or destroy. Oh yeah, we’re not just reviewing games, we’re schooling youse too. Kami paper, or koi paper, is the thinnest and least expensive paper typically used in the art of origami. It is from this context that KAMI takes its name.
KAMI is a puzzle game that’s perfect for passing time in a nearly stress-free environment. The only anxiety that comes with this game is frustration on the part of the player as its simple concept scales in difficulty. Even that angst is mitigated by soothing melodies that encourage tranquility and focus, at least initially. Read on.
KAMI uses simple point-and-click mechanics to allow the player to achieve each goal, that being to turn increasingly complex multicolored backgrounds to a solid color. Scoring depends on the number of moves required by the player to succeed, matched against a “perfect” score- the minimum number of moves possible to solve each puzzle. If the player takes more than the minimum number of moves, their rating for that puzzle is decreased based on the number of extra moves required to solve the puzzle.
Three colors of kami are available in the basic puzzles- blue, brown and red. The developers chose an eye-saving palette of pleasant pastels to suit the mood.
Clicking on a piece of kami with another color unfolds the new color over the old. When an unfolding piece of kami hits another section of a different color, it stops. Each click represents a move, and the puzzles quickly start mixing geometric arrangements of differing colors to increase the complexity of the puzzles.
Starting with extremely basic layouts, the game scales in difficulty fairly quickly. By the fourth or fifth puzzle some thought is required, and later screens definitely take some time and a few failures before the solution becomes apparent.
The graphics in KAMI are simple but effective. The developers took the time to add texture to the puzzles, with wrinkles and other irregularities apparent on the “paper”. This game is not taxing- the game file only takes up a few hundred MB and anyone, even folks who are using integrated graphics should be able to download and play KAMI with ease.
The music helps set the mood. Soothing, traditional Kigaku styles help calm the player and I think, would really add to the game and improve the ability to focus on the puzzles. In a questionable design decision, however, the music stops when you open a puzzle. Sound effects are minimal in keeping with the tone of the game. Unfortunately, only the soft rustling of the unfolding paper accompanies each move.
The Bottom Line
As explained above, the game is dependent on player input to progress, so there’s no rush to solve a puzzle. You can kick back, enjoy the instrumentals (if you choose to import some) and just think about it.
KAMI induces an almost Zen-like state during play. It’s a great stress reliever and perfect for the casual gamer, or the hardcore enthusiast who wants to take a break from the stress of more energetic titles.
It features five tiers of basic puzzles, and two tiers of “premium” puzzles- these have more complex layouts with more colors to choose, and some have hypnotic patterns on the paper. Each tier contains nine puzzles, offering hours of challenge for puzzle fans and an excellent investment in brain exercise for those who haven’t really explored this genre.
I’m truly disappointed that the developers didn’t just “let the music play” while the player ponders the puzzle. It’s really that good and soothing. This is a borderline tragic design decision, as much of the Zen-like mood established on the title and puzzle choice screens dissipates once you start playing. Oh well, I guess I can just find a traditional Chinese/Japanese music medley on Youtube and loop it while I enjoy KAMI.
KAMI features a cleverly conceived hint system. You start with 10 hint credits, and can spend them however you wish. Hints cost credits based on the total number of minimum moves to solve a puzzle, and how far the player has progressed on the solution. Your hint credits are replenished based on the number of puzzle you solved without needing hints during the previous session.
Replay value is understandably affected since the puzzles don’t change. However, at less than $5 on Steam or through iTunes (for Android, iOS and Mac), KAMI still represents an excellent value for veteran puzzle fans as well as newcomers to the genre. And, since many of the puzzles will take some time to solve, the game promises hours of relaxation and entertainment.
From the standpoint of simplicity of concept and design, KAMI is a winner. It’s easy to pick up yet challenging enough to warrant occasionally walking away from it to get some perspective on a particularly perplexing puzzle.
The only gripe I have with the game is the lack of excellent ambiance during play. With video game music occupying its own segment of yearly awards, and the universal expectation of players that their game will be accompanied by a soundtrack, I’m frankly baffled at the lack of in-game music. Game music has evolved from extremely simple, four-channel ditties to unbelievably intricate compositions that can stand on their own as artistic accomplishments. Why, State of Play, why wouldn’t you keep up the theme and give players something to listen to without having to make their own soundtrack?
The symphony of silence notwithstanding, KAMI is an excellent addition to the puzzle genre and definitely worth the price of admission. Its well-rendered game environment and the challenges it poses should keep newbies and veteran puzzlers involved for hours.
Overall, KAMI offers a lot to like and very little in the way of annoyance, save the frustration of trying different combinations of moves to get a “Perfect” rating on your solution. Like I said, find yourself some traditional Kangen or Bugaku to go along with KAMI and you’ll be set.
Despite its soundtrack shortcoming, I have to give KAMI the nod for being an excellent value, a well-designed puzzle game and a title that should reside in the virtual coffers of anyone who enjoys puzzle challenges or is in need of some relaxation… Pretty much everyone at some point.
KAMI gets 8 out of 10.
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