Ivy the Kiwi? (and I am going to apologize right now for the question mark, because I know it is going to drive some of you crazy, but it is part of the title, dang it!) is, in case you were misinformed by some of the lazier reviewers out there, absolutely not a port of a mobile phone game. The original concept was developed by Yuji Naka's Prope (yes, that Yuji Naka, programmer of the original Sonic the Hedgehog) for the Wii, which is where I played it—the DS and Windows Mobile versions are the ports here.

And while it's true that when I first picked up and tried the title this past E3, I preferred the feel of the DS version, now that I've had my time with the Wii version that XSEED so graciously over sent for review, I do not miss it—once you get into the swing of things, playing Ivy on Wii feels extremely natural and perfectly precise. Exactly as one would expect for a game with its pedigree, on the platform it was designed for.

Controlled exclusively with the Wii Remote pointer and the A and B buttons, Ivy is, strictly, a 2D platformer—but it's of the indirect variety, where you don't actually make the titular Ivy jump with a button press or run with the directional pad, but rather guide her and protect her through the use of vines you stretch onto the screen. Three vines may exist on-screen at any given time; when you draw the fourth, the oldest one disappears; when you have three drawn, you'll see the first fade a bit so you know that's the one that's about to go. But unlike the rainbows in Ivy's nearest relative in game design, Kirby: Canvas Curse, the vines you draw aren't just static paths for Ivy to walk across.

The vines you call into being with the Wii Remote can be swung around their origin points, letting you sweep her up in the air, up and around curves, or even in a full circle. Rocks that you'll pick up in some levels, useful for taking out enemies and breaking certain kinds of walls, are also moved in this way (though it can be a touch frustrating to keep them together, particularly as Ivy walks, and the rock... doesn't.) You can also sweep enemy rats off the platforms they're patrolling—right into beds of spikes if you're feeling particularly malicious. Vines can be used to shield Ivy from water droplets (like all other hazards, they're a one-hit kill to the poor little baby bird), and can even be pulled on to slingshot Ivy into a beak-first drill move, taking out enemies and certain kinds of walls along the way.

There's a simplistic sensibility to Ivy's game design; the levels are obviously gridded (to the point I kind of wished for a level editor) and there's a very small number of kinds of terrain and hazards—if it weren't for the smooth and natural-feeling physics, near-universal feeling of fairness, and obviously novel form of interaction, I'd almost say it felt a bit like a game from the 8-bit era, particularly when you figure in the one-hit deaths. The look, though, is something else entirely. The moving-sketch storybook style and delightful music add quite a bit of charm—though I can't help but wonder what child development psychologists would have to say about a children's book involving a baby bird navigating a field laced with sharp insta-kill spikes.

As I played, I had to marvel at how great it felt just to bob Ivy along in the air toward the goal of each level with gracefully-stretched vines, and how good I was getting at it. I read that Mr. Naka, when previewing the game with Nintendo Power, commented "One of the great things about action games is that moment when you think, 'Wow, I'm really getting good at this!'" I know that feeling exactly; Ivy's mechanics were almost totally new and unfamiliar, yet I picked them up quickly, making movement totally natural and even rather relaxing.

Well, relaxing until I have to be quick on my Remote hand to keep a sprightly Ivy safe from whatever impending doom just scrolled into view, at least. If there's one thing that troubled me with Ivy, it'd have to be the screen scroll. Ivy moves at a pretty good clip when left to her own devices, and the screen always follows her (which is as it should be), but at times that means that means you have to stretch vines very quickly as new obstacles spring into view. Sometimes, there just didn't seem like there's enough real estate on the screen to get things done, and in order to protect Ivy, I ended up with a tangled mess of vines instead of the smooth path I wanted to build—and if Ivy was in the middle of that tangle, how she popped out of it could be rather unpredictable. I have got better at avoiding this particular problem, though, so it's probably not fair to complain about the challenge, is it?

There's a lot to like about this package; though its presentation is a bit on the minimalist side, there's plenty to keep you busy. The main game has 50 levels, which you can breeze through in 1-2 hours, but you'll likely come out the other end without collecting all ten of the optional feathers you'll find in each. You can replay the entire game whenever you wish for a shot at a new high score (I really like doing this!), or just replay individual levels to capture all the feathers; getting all ten unlocks a time trial, with some pretty crazy requirements for the gold medals. (I have a total of one thus far.) Additionally, when you finish the main game, there's 50 more bonus levels, which will give you a touch of déjà vu as you realize they're remixed versions of the original set with a bunch more hazards and the requirement to get a key to unlock the door at the end of each level, but I like them—they make for a much better "hard mode" challenge than something lazy like speeding everything up.

There are also a few multiplayer modes you can tackle as well. There's the versus mode, which lets you and up to three others race in split-screen and also interfere with each other by drawing vines on their screens. I definitely prefer that mode to the other multiplayer option, a "co-op" mode where a second player can drop in to your single-player game and add additional vines... frankly, I don't like that mode at all; it's generally just a lot more frustrating than it is fun, particularly with the game's sprightly pace. But the race is definitely a good time, even if I do have the decidedly unfair advantage as a skilled vine-swinger.

Ivy the Kiwi?, particularly at its low asking price of $30 ($20 for the DS version, which I understand lacks the co-op mode but still carries the race mode, although minus the ability to draw on others' screens), turns out to be a pretty nice package even as its presentation does turn out to be somewhat understated—it's charming, pleasantly challenging, and most importantly, feels great to play, from the gentle swing of the vines to the spot-on physics of Ivy and the occasional inhabitant of the worlds she traverses. It's one of those games that was brought to life thanks to the novel concepts Wii brought to the table, blended with the pure inspiration and excellent execution of Mr. Naka's Prope, and it gets an unqualified recommendation from me.