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KeyWe

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Sold Out
Developer: Stonewheat & Sons
Release Date: Aug. 31, 2021

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Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'KeyWe'

by Cody Medellin on May 28, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

KeyWe is a couch co-op game starring Jeff and Debra, two kiwi birds who work at the post office.

Pre-order KeyWe

There's a trend right now in games where common, strenuous activities are being transformed into multiplayer experiences. Whether it's cooking or moving furniture, the key seems to be making them silly enough to be fun, so long as you're playing with at least one other person. The other key move seems to be the inclusion of non-humans to increase the cute factor, whether it's a wheelchair-bound raccoon in Overcooked or a person with a toaster for a head in Moving Out. KeyWe does something similar, and based on the preview build, it looks like it'll carry on the tradition of the aforementioned titles.

You play the role of Jeff and Debra, the latest employees of the Bungalow Basin postal service. In the Australian Outback, you're in charge of delivering letters and packages and deciphering telegrams to people in the area. The catch is that both Debra and Jeff are tiny kiwi birds in a human-sized world. Despite that shortcoming, your job is to do your best to keep the service running.


Like many games of this type, KeyWe is meant to be a multiplayer experience. The good news is that the co-op multiplayer can be done both locally and online, giving the game a big advantage over its contemporaries. The bad news is that the title is limited to two players, so while the action can get manic, it can't get more people into the action. If you choose to play the game solo, you can swap between characters with the press of a button; it works but isn't great. The other control scheme has you controlling each kiwi with their own analog stick, akin to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and while that may sound like it can be a real workout for the brain, it ends up being the best way to play the game if you're not playing with a friend.

The preview build had six main levels and two bonus stages, and each level lasts for three rounds. Four of the levels are tutorials that introduce you to the different tasks that you'll be doing throughout the game. The first puts you on telegraph duty as you receive messages word by word and have to type it out before sending it off. Aside from you being kiwi-size, the keys of the keyboard are spread out over the table. Your job is to hit each of the correct keys with your butt and hit the "Send" button when each word is entered. Send out the entire message requires both kiwi birds to hit the "Send" keys at the same time.

The second level has you taking dictation from audio tapes and sending that via cassowary delivery. Instead of typing it out, you affix stickers that either contain parts of the word or whole words, so you can construct the message almost like a ransom note. Once that's done, the letter needs to go into a pouch held by a cassowary. One kiwi needs to feed the giant bird, so the other can tighten the straps before you send it off on its merry way. Compared to being on telegraph duty, this level starts to ramp up the difficulty.

The third tutorial level tasks you with labeling and delivering packages, and this is a little more complicated than the other tasks in the game. Before each package comes in, you get a letter stating where it needs to go, but careful reading of the letter informs you of what kind of sticker it needs. You need to look at the map to determine the delivery code for the destination region, so you can put the label on the box, and you need another machine to produce the box lid to affix the delivery sticker. Once that's there, you and your kiwi partner need to operate a crane to get the lid affixed before looking at the map again to figure out which region the package belongs to before sending it out. It sounds complicated, like the previous level, this is a very involved co-op task.


The final tutorial stage has you helping an octopus with general mail and package sorting. Packages need to be pushed either to the send tube or the receiving bins. Incoming letters are designated for one of four different colored receiving tubes, while outgoing letters are on a carousel where the player needs to get the one matching the correct name before ringing the bell for pickup. Of all of the scenarios presented so far, this one feels like each kiwi can do something distinct.

The four tutorial levels give you a good idea of the basics while showing how challenging the process can be, but the preview build's final two levels show how crazy things can get. The first takes you back to telegraph duty, but with kudzu wrapping itself on the table. The plant's presence means that you'll need to peck at some of the vines to see and use the keyboard, while also avoiding the flowers that can trap you for a decent amount of time. You now have to worry about the keys occasionally popping off, forcing you to focus on grabbing the stray key and reattaching it if you need to use it in your message.

The other level takes you back to letter and package delivery — in a flooded basement. Delivering packages requires you to play a sliding puzzle to get junk out of the way, so the packages have a clear path. Meanwhile, the letters are scattered along with their respective baskets, but the octopus occasionally pops up to elevate platforms as needed. Both provide the kind of challenge that people expect from a late-game level, but they remain fun as opposed to frustrating, especially since you get a generous timer. It also helps that each level has a quick optional tutorial, which is helpful since the game often switches between the four main scenarios.


The two bonus stages of the preview build strike the balance of familiarity and novelty. One bonus level simplifies the package process by letting you focus on either applying the correct label to some boxes or taking incorrect labels off of others. The challenge, of course, is that the package flow is endless, and there are two conveyor belts to worry about. The second bonus level has you feeding the cassowaries on their lunch break. They only want two types of fruit, and they'll drink water, but the challenge is in making sure the water pumps keep flowing so you can dispense water when needed. There's also the added challenge of having to chirp at them to calm them down whenever they get mad that they didn't receive what they want or if they start bickering with each other.

Aside from unlocking more levels, the main perk for beating levels are stamps; more stamps are given to both players, depending on how quickly they beat a level. Those stamps can be turned in for several different cosmetic items that make both kiwi birds look adorable. Some are simple, like aviator glasses and a headset. Others are more extravagant, like a skeleton costume or a dinosaur skull that a kiwi can wear on its head. Then there's the ability to make them much fuzzier by giving them overgrown fur. There was a small sampling of some of these cosmetics in the preview build, and we can't wait to see what the full lineup holds.

Based on the trailer, KeyWe looks to become more manic as the game progresses. From shooting letters into floating containers to working through a sandstorm, it looks to be hectic enough to pose quite a challenge to players. Based on the preview build, the game looks to be a ridiculous amount of fun, even if a limited number of players can play together. With a release date set for August 31, 2021, it won't be long before we can check out KeyWe for review.



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