David is a proudly queer performing artist and software developer. He spends most of his downtime with a controller in his hands and a lazy beagle on his lap.
Peck, buttslam, and chirp your way to running a successful mail service in KeyWe, an upcoming co-op experience coming to PC and consoles on 31st August this year! This “cute, co-operative postal puzzler” stars the adorably fuzzy Jeff and Debra, two brave kiwis starting a new job at the local post office. Players will control these little posties through sprawling mailrooms filled with buttons, levers, and packages to sort, typing out telegrams and stamping envelopes to keep the mail of Bungalow Basin flowing.
The demo for KeyWe comes with a variety of game modes, beginning with “The Telegraph Room”. This mode tasks you with running across a giant typewriter in a more literal interpretation of the ‘hunt-and-peck’ typing technique. Words will be sent through on a screen, and you’ll have to navigate the large sprawling keyboard and buttslam each letter individually, before timing a synchronised buttslam to send your letter on. It’s a neat, low-stress introduction to the basic movement mechanics, and it’s satisfying getting into a typing groove once you’ve familiarised yourselves with the keyboard layout. Later on, this mode is reprised with the added challenge of an obnoxious plant that interferes with your poor kiwis as they waddle about. The plant will pop keys off the keyboard, grow vines across the screen to obscure the word, and even snatch up passing kiwis in its chompy flowers.
Other game modes in the demo include a section where you scurry around an octopus’s mailroom stuffing letters into chutes and pushing packages around, a scene where you stamp words into a letter before tying it to a cassowary’s back, and a couple of “overtime” challenges that test the limits of your skill. The two overtime modes on offer are intense – one involves stamping stickers onto boxes along rapidly-moving conveyor belts, while the other charges you with feeding four exceptionally demanding cassowaries. The latter is particularly chaotic, and feels much more like the frenetic disorganisation of something like Overcooked than the rest of the game, which is much gentler.
KeyWe is dripping with charm. From the little New Zealand flag in the collectables screen, to the tiny parachutes Jeff and Debra spawn in on if you fall off a stage, each element has been designed with a lot of love. Particularly wonderful are the various skins and outfits for the kiwis you can unlock by spending Stamps, which you earn for completing game modes quickly. Something about dressing up these teeny birds in goggles and chef’s hats is uniquely cosy and delightful, and provides a nice incentive to play more. Also of note is the beautifully upbeat soundtrack that sets a lovely, relaxing tone.
While it’s possible to play KeyWe as a single-player game, it’s definitely designed as a co-op experience. Those without a kiwi-in-crime can opt to hotswap between Jeff and Debra, or try to cope with the mammoth task of controlling both birds at once on a single controller. On the simpler levels, it’s actually quite relaxing and easy to fall into a flow-like trance pecking away at your silly little tasks as a solo player. Although in the Overtime Shifts, it’s practically Dark Souls. Thankfully, setting up co-op is as easy as connecting a second controller, or having one player use the keyboard. The controls are easy to pick up, with large button prompts clarifying any contextual cues (eg. press X to slam your little kiwi butt or L to honk from your little kiwi beak).
It’s also simple to connect to a friend online via a room code, though when fellow Checkpoint writer Alex and I tried playing during lockdown, we did have a few latency issues. A particularly troublesome phantom package persisted during our time at the Dropoff Depot, but since the game is built with wackiness and chaotic charm in mind, a little bit of NBN disruption didn’t detract from the fun.
My partner and I played through each of KeyWe’s game modes comfortably from the couch, finding it a heck of a lot less stressful than many other co-op games we’ve tried. While there are some more challenging options for those pairs keen to push themselves, the overall package seems like it will be incredibly accessible for those less familiar with gaming – the tasks are simple to understand, controls are easy to pick up, and the presentation is adorably charming. Look forward to KeyWe when it releases in August this year!