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Kami Review: Tranquil Tedium
Kami is a minimalistic puzzle game and one of the many recent iOS/Android ports available on Steam. Kami in particular boasts engrossing puzzles and a beautiful hand-made art style. And… well, that’s about it, really.
For the most part, what you see is what you get. Your aim is to end up with only a single color on the board by strategically filling in certain areas of the board, in the minimum amount of moves possible. In general the puzzles are rewarding and can be very challenging, and the amount of content will keep the average player busy for maybe 4 hours or so. The levels are well-designed but provide little variation in gameplay, so it works better in short bursts rather than an intense gaming period. While the gameplay is primarily intended for short relaxation periods anyway, it’s limited by its role as it would be too monotonous if taken as a serious in-depth puzzle game.
The atmosphere is developed through the paper-y aesthetic and accompanying sound effects. The problem with this is that unless you’re constantly clicking, there’s simply no sound. A charming Japanese-style song plays while you scroll through the menu but it stops as soon as you enter a level, where you spend most of your time. It can be refreshing, though, as it results in a quiet, meditative feel with the occasional rough sound of folding paper.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with porting a mobile game to PC, but Kami comes across as a lazy effort. The only options available are to toggle music, sound effects and windowed mode. The levels that are normally purchased with an extra fee on mobile are still labelled premium despite just being regular levels in the PC version – and you even get a pop-up asking you to rate the game if you liked it. Some of these aspects may come across as trivial but it highlights how the developers clearly made no attempt to adapt their game to the PC market. Heck, they only included an exit button because it was asked for on the forum!
However, the worst offender is unequivocally the strange hint system. You begin with 10 credits that can be used to ‘purchase’ hints with, costing 3 for the first hint, 2 for the second and 1 for any subsequent hints needed per level. Your credits reset daily, meaning that at worst you could end up only being able to use 3 hints each day! This system is obviously designed for the mobile version in which limiting hints will tempt players into buying more credits via microtransactions – an option not available on PC. While many people will prefer to avoid using many hints regardless, it is up to the player to decide this and not for the game to ration them. While Japanese culture, and specifically origami, clearly have a heavy influence on Kami’s design, I couldn’t help but wish it actually affected the gameplay somehow. Regardless of the art style, the actual folding is simply a shallow animation that fills the screen when you change colors. What results is a basic game that only sets itself apart from a dime-a-dozen flash game with its aesthetic design. While it is commonly considered acceptable for casual games to be somewhat lacking in depth, an increasing number of titles are showing that they can shake it up – such as Unholy Heights or Jack Lumber – making it even less of a valid excuse.