Gambling on Gaming: Kwirk
The video game hobby can be a funny thing. When I was younger there wasn’t a flood of information available to you all the time at the touch of a button, or the click of a mouse. You had to rely on magazines that only came out once a month, and you had to hope that magazine had information on a game you might like. Many times when you went to the store to buy a game you did so with the hope that when you got the game home it would be a fun experience. Many video game players will relate to stories of their gaming youth of having to play through terrible games because it was simply all you had. Many times it really was a gamble to buy a game.
That’s the premise of this new feature that I’m starting today. Every two weeks I’m going to go to one of the local stores here in Tulsa, primarily Vintage Stock, with a budget of $5. I’ll ask the store clerk to randomly select one game that comes in under $5 in price and I’ll bring it home, play it and tell you all about the experience. This is going to begin as a handheld series as there are a plethora of handheld games for all of Nintendo’s classic systems available at that price or lower. Eventually we’ll move on to some consoles, and if I acquire any new handhelds we’ll include those as well. It really is going to be a gamble on gaming because I don’t know what I’m going to get. It could be a hidden gem. It could be a pile of poo. You just never know and that’s the idea. To remember what it was like when we were younger. I’m only going to do it with less money on the table. I’ll do a little bit of research on each of the titles to get some history about the game, but I’ll avoid any reviews because I want the experience to be fresh and without any pre-conceived notions.
Essentially there are a couple of different reasons for doing things this way. Number one, the $5 budget means that these games are accessible by just about anyone. Everyone has $5 laying around every once in a while to buy a new game. Number two, it brings back those memories of playing games with little to no information about them. Number three, I get to see how other people react when I ask them to pick a game for me. I’ll be exploring that some as well and seeing how different people react to my requests. Number four, it builds up a library of games that I never really had with all the greatest, not so great and bizarre games from Nintendo’s handheld past. I might occasionally increase the budget for these games, but for the foreseeable future the budget is going to be locked at $5.
Up first is a game called Kwirk. It was released for the Game Boy in March of 1990. Atlus, most well known now for the unique RPG franchises, was the developer (and the publisher in Japan). In North America Acclaim handled publishing duties. I immediately was reminded of the old 7UP games like Spot and Cool Spot when I saw the box art. Kwirk stars a red tomato character sporting black sunglasses and a bright green mohawk. He and his girlfriend Tammy are out about town and decide to go exploring the labyrinths underneath a city. They get separated and that’s where the game begins.
The basic gameplay of Kwirk is a block puzzle game. There are different types of blocks with different characteristics that are blocking Kwirk’s path to the next room. You need to figure out the proper way to move all of the block in order to open up the path to the stairs and out of the room your in. Some of the blocks are just ones that need to be pushed out of the way. They can come in different shapes, mostly 1×1 all the way up to 3×3 squares. You can only push them and not pull them so knowing where they are in relation to walls and other blocks will be very important. Others blocks are on turnstiles and can be rotated 90 degrees and will come in a variety of shapes. If there are blocks touching one of these turnstile blocks’ sides it won’t be able to move. Other times there will be gaps in the floor that need to be filled by pushing blocks into the hole. You can’t fall in to the pits so don’t worry about falling to your death. The style of play reminds me of those block puzzles where you have dozens of buses or cars on a playing field that need to be moved around to clear a path from one side to another.
Along the way Kwirk will be met by some friends who just happen to be exploring the labyrinths as well and can aid him on his quest to reunite with Tammy. When you meet one of these characters, both Kwirk and the friend need to be guided to the exit to successfully complete the level.
There are actually three different game play modes available in Kwirk and, while they play similarly, they are a bit different. The first, called Going Up? is the main single player mode of the game. There are thirty levels broken up into three different difficulty levels. These levels start out easy enough, but once you progress to the harder difficulty levels the challenge really ramps up. You are given a score at the end of each level based on how many steps you took to complete the level. If you push a block into the wrong position, or get stuck it’s a simple matter to restart the level. A quick press of the A button brings up a menu that will let you restart, go back up to your last eight moves, or end the game altogether. I found it very easy to complete the 10 rooms on the easiest difficulty, but the hardest has proven to be quite hard to complete.
The second game play mode is called Heading Out? This is a mode where you are presented with a number of rooms, between 10 and 99 chosen by you, and you must complete them back to back without stopping. You begin each room with 2000 points and this point total begins to slowly disappear as time progresses. Restarting a room knocks a considerable amount off of the available points. You are awarded however many points are left at the end of each room and these points are added together for your overall score. I found this mode to be pretty repetitive as a number of rooms were repeated time and time again.
The last game play mode is a two player verses mode where you and a friend go head to head, using a Link Cable to see who can finish rooms faster. I was not able to try out this mode as I don’t have a Link Cable or multiple copies of the game.
Overall, the game play presented in Kwirk is pretty good. For a Game Boy game the challenge is there and I can imagine anyone who had this game had a lot of fun with it. I don’t think there’s a lot of replay value in the game due to the small number of levels overall that are available. Once you’ve played through the levels and learned the solution any of the challenge that was present at the beginning is gone. The only thing I can see doing is to find out if its possible to complete the game in fewer steps, or earn more points overall in the marathon mode of play. Initially there is quite a lot of fun in trying to figure out the solutions to these puzzles. They can be quite taxing on the old brain box. There were definitely some puzzles where I would go around in circles appearing that I was getting somewhere only to end up in the same place I was just a few moves before. It’s quite satisfying to finally end up with the solution to the puzzles and I never really felt like I accidentally stumbled into a solution.
For $5 I really found this to be a good little puzzle game that you’re going to get your money’s worth out of. Based on the cover art I was expecting something of a Cool Spot clone and was pleasantly surprised by the game when I popped it into my Game Boy. This is a good throwback to classic puzzle games. Visually it reminds me of NES games like the Adventure of Lolo. There’s not a lot going on in each level, but the pieces that are there have some good detail to them. If you see this one at a store it would definitely be worth picking up.
The following is a tool assisted run that I found of someone playing the game on Youtube. This is not me playing.