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Akimi Village
Score: 86%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: NinjaBee
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation/ God Games

Graphics & Sound:
Akimi Village fixes a great injustice. Although Xbox owners have been able to enjoy two Kefling games from NinjaBee, PlayStation 3 owners have been out of the loop. Though the name may not strike the same chord as say, Gears of War, both Kefling games are a fantastic way to relax and have fun doing it.

Similar to Keflings, Akimi Village keeps things simple. The visuals are bright and show a lot of personality. The visual style takes a lot of cues from Asian culture; there's loads of bamboo to harvest and every building looks like it was plucked from a brightly-colored postcard from the East. The addition of Gloom adds a great visual indicator of how you're reshaping the world and offers a much-needed visual milestone to gauge your progress.

Unfortunately, the camera system can be problematic. Though not a constant problem, it is sometimes hard to see what is happening. Camera issues are most evident when trying to grab certain objects. A glowing aura surrounds selected buildings, though it is hard to know when you have an Akimi selected. It is even harder when you're trying to pick out specific ones. Each Akimi has their own color scheme, though unlike the Keflings, there's more detail on the ground, so you can lose them.

Music is light and peppy with a mellow undertone. It is okay at first, but slowly starts to grate on your nerves after an hour or so. Thankfully, Akimi Village is better in short bursts.

If you are at all familiar with either Keflings game, you'll know exactly what to expect from Akimi Village. You play as either a boy or girl who wakes up on a floating island. You're soon greeted by a wise old tanooki who claims to know how you got to the island and, more importantly, how to get back. But, in order to do that he first needs to you help him restore the island. It seems a dark shroud, called Gloom, has set in, turning the once vibrant island into a dark, dreary mess.

In order to help restore the island, you'll need team up with the Akimi, the islands diminutive natives, and rebuild their village. You start with a handful of Akimi and, armed with a few materials and blueprints, set out to build workshops and other structures while also pushing back the Gloom.

The aspect that sets Akimi Village apart from other games is the calm, laid-back pacing. There's no way to lose the game; you just keep building until you've finished off the list of blueprints. Though it doesn't sound like much fun in description, it is relaxing and slightly more challenging that it initially seems. The heart of the game is resource management. You'll have to figure out what resources are important for your next blueprint and make sure you have a proper supply line working to ensure things keep running smoothly. You can't drive the civilization into the ground, though you can waste a lot of time if you don't pay attention.

The addition of Gloom on the map is a fun improvement. There's no immediate threat from the Gloom, though it adds something to work against. I especially like how it plays into population control. Akimi Village ditches the Keflings's Heart and Home idea. Instead, Akimi are wandering in the Gloom. As you gain Culture (by building certain structures), you'll earn acorns to plan in Soul Wells on the island, clearing the surrounding Gloom. Any Akimi wandering the cleansed area join your population. It's a neat idea and much better than having to scour the world for Hearts.

Akimi Village is built on the idea of progression and reward. Unless you really try, there's no way to get "stuck" in the game. The one time I thought I hit a dead end, I built a new building and kept moving forward. There's never a sense of pressure. It's great for players who want a simple experience, but those who want to always feel like their back is against the wall will be disappointed.

The low-pressure gameplay presents a few issues. The Akimi A.I. is good; once you set them to work, they'll roll through tasks without needed outside assistance. Once your lumberjacks deplete a forest, they'll find the next nearest one and get back to work. Some players may enjoy not having to micro-manage their way through the game, but it provides one less thing to do.

Everything hinges on your ability to find the best workflow. You have a set number of Akimi and need to find a way to put them to work, guaranteeing an efficient influx of resources, so there's no work stoppage. Getting the right mix is one of the few major challenges. It is not incredibly hard with a little thought and the proper village layout. I was actually able to optimize the process enough that I had excess Akimi roaming the village.

Game Mechanics:
Oddly enough, Akimi Village takes more cues from the first Keflings game than the second game. There are a number of base improvements to the system, though it also ditches the story-based quests and giant helpers found in World of Keflings. Both were great additions, especially the story-based elements, which offered a better sense of where you were going. With Akimi Village, you're moving from blueprint to blueprint with little reason other than to keep growing the village. It was the same with Kingdom of Keflings, though at least you had the added motivation of building a bridge to rescue the stranded Kefling princess or other plot points.

I also missed the helper Keflings who could carry pieces of buildings. Losing the option to auto-construct buildings isn't big, though later on, I would have liked some help when I had to build large structures. Akimi Village also removes the option to push buildings. If you want to move a building, you have to "destroy" it and move each piece one-by-one.

Akimi Village does add a few new options. Certain structures offer global boosts to all of your Akimi. You can also use some structures to further boost individual stats. For instance, dropping an Akimi in the Ricksaw School lets them move faster.

The most welcome improvement is universal resource-sharing. Rather than each structure having its own stockpile, all resources go into one pile. This removes a lot of tedium and makes it easier to quickly build up your village.

Akimi Village's laid-back play style may not appeal to everyone, but if you're willing to give it a chance, you may find yourself quickly absorbed into the game's zen-like experience. It's not meant for long stretches of play, but it's hard to not want to stick around for one more building.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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