Monday 13 February 2017

Kolibri (32X review)

Developer: Novotrade
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1995

Kolibri is a shoot-em-up that's exclusive to the Sega 32X.

As a hummingbird, your mission is to defeat the dark crystal's evil and restore the Earth crystal's harmonious energy. It supports 1-2 players (co-op) and features an array of weapons such as Cluster Bombs, Reflecting shots and Homing attacks. There's 20 levels and unlike most shooters they're split between varying gameplay styles. The opening 'tutorial' level is massively confusing, as unless you have the manual you somehow have to know to drink from the orange flower to progress. Subsequent levels task you with wiping out all enemies but there's no map to aid navigation, and your life-bar is only displayed after you've taken damage; it's a very unintuitive start and one that will likely deter a few players. While the weapons are great, your bird moves erratically and has a strange jitter that regularly puts you back in harms way after you've just dodged an attack. Enemies constantly respawn in most levels too and fire before they're even visible on screen, resulting in blindside deaths. There are a few auto-scrolling levels to break things up but they're far too short. The puzzle stages are interesting and usually require a particular weapon to open up a blocked path; however, the solutions are cryptic and without an FAQ you'll struggle. One standout stage is Terra Decay, as you secretly trail a large creature until it opens the pathway to its underground cave. Later levels involve lots of backtracking, but the skittish bird movements and abundance of cheap hits ruin the above-average stage design. The game's high point is its jaw-droppingly gorgeous visuals that look like a watercolour painting.

Kolibri deserves credit for trying something new and adding variety to an otherwise rigid genre, but in reality it ends up being different for the sake of being different. It's far too abstract for its own good, and the flaky controls, overly aggressive A.I. and lack of signposting make for a rather exasperating experience.
Random trivia: Novotrade also developed the Ecco the Dolphin series of games.

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