For those afraid that KeyWe will cause friendships and marriages to crumble like Overcooked is known to do, the developers at Stonewheat and Sons assured me that they are taking that into account:
“We love Overcooked. With KeyWe, we’re aiming to encourage a communicative, team-building dynamic between two coworkers: fast-paced, but perhaps less stressful, and a little cozier. We want the game to feel urgent and even chaotic at times, but there’s less danger of the post office literally catching on fire. One of our goals is that players can play through the whole game more casually if they wish to, with a relatively low-to-medium score required to progress to the next level. Players that want to really race the clock for expert-level scores can earn fancy rewards and achievements for doing so.”Oh, and they aren’t lying when they mention fancy rewards. In the demo build, you were able to customize Jeff and Debra with different hats and even change their colors. I chose to play as a panda/penguin-looking Kiwi that wore a classy top hat.
I then excitedly took my fancy Kiwi birds into the demo’s two stages – one that tasked us with typing out messages on a typewriter with keys scattered all over the level, and another that had us labeling letters to mail out to the other inhabitants of Bungalow Basin. Coordination was key, as some keys and labels would shift and rotate and move about the level. There is just something special about working together towards a common goal, and KeyWe instantly won me over in that department.
I was playing with one of the developers, and although we hadn’t met prior to my time with the game, we instantly started shouting out commands and laughing at such moments as my Kiwi falling off the level and adorably parachuting back in, never giving up on our mission.
Another aspect of KeyWe that caught my attention was the superb animation of the Kiwi birds and other moving parts of each level. A standout was the Cassowary bird that was your mail courier, waiting for you to give him/her letters you have successfully labeled. For a game that won’t be released until 2021 on PC, it felt extremely polished and so ridiculously cute, especially the little movements that made these creatures feel so alive.
What works so well about these types of games is the realization of Bushnell’s Law – “All the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master.” It’s easy to become the Kiwi bird and stomp your butt on keys to type out a message, but to get the highest scores and rewards, you need to not only learn to be the best Kiwi bird you can be, you have to be a good teammate.
The one issue with simplicity, however, is that it can get boring if the same tasks must be performed over and over again. While Stonewheat and Sons aren’t ready to talk about everything they have planned for KeyWe, they did reassure me that they are using a “long-standing postal motto” as inspiration to keep the gameplay fresh.
“Beyond what we showed at PAX East, other examples of postal tasks include packaging shipping crates or working the front desk to sort incoming and outgoing mail. We don’t want to say too much too soon, but a long-standing postal motto is “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” and that’s giving us inspiration for how we theme new challenges in KeyWe.”
I know I’m biased by my love for New Zealand and the wonderful Kiwi bird, but I found KeyWe to be a special game that you just get when you first see it. I can’t wait to see how it evolves and to spend many amazing nights with those I love playing as two birds trying to make a name for themselves in one whimsical post office.