From Mario to Rhythm Heaven when it comes to first-party games, Nintendo is no slouch. But what's surprising is how many of these titles never leave Japan even today. We took a look at the B-List Nintendo crossover Captain Rainbow earlier this year, but it is far from the only forgotten Wii title. In fact, perhaps the most unique title Nintendo has ever made came out on the Wii earlier this year practically unnoticed -- a game called Kiki Trick.
Good -- A Unique Concept
When it comes down to it, you only need two aspects to make a video game: graphics and some form of interactivity. After all, it is a "video game". What makes Kiki Trick so unique is that its gameplay is based on aural interactivity rather than visual interactivity. Simply put, Kiki Trick is a video game about listening. The visual component of the game is little more than (admittedly cute) paper cut-outs talking. While the gameplay is as simple as clicking the correct answer on the screen, everything else is up to your ears and your mind.
Good -- Mini-Games Are Very Fun
Outside of the main game (which we'll be talking about later on), Kiki Trick is full of fun listening mini-games called "Mimi Pros." In each Mimi Pro, you play a character whose job/hobbies include something to do with listening. One man drinks cocktails made of sounds and then identifies the ingredients (ie, the individual sounds) that make it up. Another is a doctor who fixes sounds by reorganising and/or flipping the sections of the broken sound wave to restore it to its original state. The oddest Mimi Pro involves a knife-throwing circus clown who takes target requests based on the sounds the audience makes.
There are another set of even more basic mini-games called "Oto Goods." These have no plot or characters but are still creative and fun. One simply asks you to count the number of sounds you hear behind a locked door. My favourite involves a karate fighter. You are only able to see his body and the area behind him -- not the horde of fighters coming at him. So whenever you hear them attacking, you must attack first and send them flying.
Frankly, all these mini-games -- both Mimi Pro and Oto Goods -- are cute, clever, and fun to play.
Good -- Fun For The Whole Family
A fun feature in the game is that it has drop-in couch co-op. This means at any time, a friend or family member can simply sit down, grab a controller, and help out mid puzzle. This turns Kiki Trick into a party game by letting it become a team effort. And you'll need the additional help because...
Bad -- The Main Game Is More Boring And Difficult Than Fun
In contrast to the mini-games I mentioned above, the main game is a slog at best. It involves you listening to a conversation between two normal people and a person with a strangely distorted voice. The first of these is a child whose voice is distorted so much it sounds like the static-filled voices you might hear on a radio station almost out of range. The second was a talking zebra who's voice cut in and out every half second or so.
Your job is to listen to the person with the distorted voice and report its answer to the two people asking the questions. The questions themselves are generally very simple: "What's your favourite food?" or "What's something you like to do but only do once a year?" What you have to do to answer changes depending on which of the five variations of this game you are playing. Sometimes all you need to do is pick a single word that the two questioners didn't understand. Other times you need to reconstruct the entire sentence. Sometimes there is a time limit, sometimes there isn't. In all the games you can listen to the distorted voice as many times as you want; but once you click "next" and see the possible answers, you're left with nothing but your memory.
To progress through each of the five variations, you must answer three questions in each set consecutively. If you fail even once, you start over with new questions. The biggest problem is that playing this chore-of-a-main-game is the only way to unlock the myriad of fun mini-games. Worse yet, you need to play a full set of main mode stages -- ie, 15 rounds of these boring/difficult games -- to unlock the fun ones.
Unfortunately, this is one of those sad times where a unique concept alone is unable to carry the game. If this were nothing but a mini-game collection with all the games unlocked, this would be a passable, if not downright enjoyable, game. However, the main mode is so frustrating and boring that unlocking the mini-games soon feels like a waste of effort.
Lastly, for anyone thinking of importing. I would advise against it unless you are a native speaker -- and probably not even then. I had such trouble with the main mode that I enlisted the help of several Japanese native speakers -- fearing that perhaps even after all these years, my Japanese just wasn't good enough. They were even more dumbfounded than I. In the end, to play the main game, I had to cheat wildly, recording the distorted voice on my iPhone and then repeatedly playing it back as I looked at the answers. It was pretty much the antithesis of fun.
Kiki Trick was released in Japan on January 19, 2012, for the Nintendo Wii. There are currently no plans for an international release.