When I was younger, there was one toy I really wanted, but never ended up getting: a play post office.
I was obsessed with stationery (still am), and so the idea of sorting through letters and envelopes, stamping stuff and charging imaginary customers for the privilege is something that really appealed to my younger self. Having spent some time playing KeyWe however, a co-op game about a pair of kiwi birds working in a post office, I now realise my parents might have had the right idea by not buying me that pretend post office. It’s a whole lot of busywork for very little reward.
That said, the concept of KeyWe still very much appeals to me. The part of me that loves sorting and organising gets absolutely giddy at the thought of KeyWe. Playable either solo or in co-op, your goal is to complete a number of postal-related tasks. You might have to type out messages, correctly label packages before they’re sent out, or sort incoming and outgoing mail. It sounds like a dream come true for someone like me. Except, since you’re a bird, tasks are made a little more complex. You’ll need to use your butt to hit a letter on a keyboard, for example, so even a simple execution takes time and patience to complete. And so, in practice, KeyWe isn’t quite as fun as it ought to be.
This has been very much designed with co-op play in mind, so if you’re tackling the game alone, you’ll need to switch control of the two kiwis regularly. You’ll also need to synchronise up their movements in order to hit buttons and activate switches that require both birds – thankfully, holding down a button on your controller will allow for both kiwis’ movements to be synchronised. But there are no allowances made for single-player; if you’re going for gold on each level, you’ll really need another player on board.
In co-op – which can be either online or local – you’ll need to co-ordinate effectively and communicate in order to succeed. Typing out a word, for example, with one player dealing with half the letters and another the other half, requires you to pay close attention to what the other player’s doing. It can get messy – but it’s not quite chaotic enough to recreate the sort of messy hilarity that comes from playing something like Overcooked, for example. Get into a rhythm with KeyWe and it can be satisfying, but in a very ho-hum, business-like sort of way. Struggle to co-ordinate and it’s nothing but frustrating.
Adding to the frustrations are levels that add extra obstacles and pests to overcome. You’ll frequently encounter bugs that steal your letters, for example, and so you’ll need to chase them down before you can complete the task at hand. And with different types of tasks available, it’s likely you’ll enjoy some more than others. Sorting through incoming and outgoing mail is deeply satisfying – but having to type out a letter before passing it to a delivery bird who first needs feeding quickly becomes rather tiresome. You can’t choose what levels you play either; you’ll simply work through a calendar, with each level predetermined. Being able to choose what challenges you play would make KeyWe much more enjoyable, I think.
KeyWe does deserve some praise, though. It’s an adorable-looking game, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with the two kiwis – especially when you’ve dressed them up in a range of unlockable outfits. And despite the amount of busywork involved, I do have to praise developer Stonewheat & Sons for coming up with a unique concept. I just wish the actual gameplay lived up to the promise.
Although playable in single-player, it’s hard to recommend KeyWe as a solo experience. This has been very much designed with co-op play in mind, so unless you have someone to play with, don’t bother picking it up. It’s a commendable concept and fun can be had in short bursts, but ultimately the tasks given to these adorable kiwi birds boil down to nothing but repetitive busywork.
KeyWe Review – GameSpew’s Score