PAX East 2020: KeyWe Let’s You Play Birds Running A Mail Service


Posted on March 6, 2020 by Nick Moreno

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The hassles of everyday life is already stressful as it is when it comes to routinely incorporating tasks for day to day life. As humans, we are subjected to scheduling, cleaning, and organizing which becomes a primitive trait that we would have to second guess to actually question why we do things. However, the same way we process and act can also be seen with animals.

While I have no supporting facts for what species of creatures perform the same daily functions that we do on the realm of reality, I’d like to think that they do through Stonewheat & Sons’ KeyWe. Taking control of flightless kiwi birds named Jeff and Debra, these two feathered friends are tasked to manage and work a post office in the Bungalow Basin. This past weekend at PAX East, I tag-teamed with Rectify Gaming’s Gregory Dawes to try out KeyWe and see how much mailroom hijinx we can uncover.

On the surface, this cooperative experience behind the two kiwi birds looks simple enough: prep mail, make telegraphs, be birds. However, we soon found that team cooperation is key towards maintaining a steady work flow to keep our heads above the water. For the first of two objective-based levels, you are to man the mailing room and make letters from audio logs.

If you couldn’t pick this up already, birds cannot write since they are winged creatures and instead speak out their letters for Jeff & Debra to make for them. Scattered across the environment is snippets of words that you must collect and place in order to mimic what the tapes are stating. However, finding the appropriate affix swiftly grows stressful as you have to complete three letters in a ticking down time limit. I should also note that there are some obstacles like rotating platforms which make finding portions of spelling more of a challenge.

And that is only half the battle as then the two birds must simultaneously seal the letter to prep for delivery. This segment alone had the two of us vocally count down to press the action prompt since we would just spam it before with no result; one element that raises an eyebrow for more player interactivity. This is then followed by taming an ostrich with candy as you place the letter in its satchel and spamming the gamepad to buckle the pouch.

Task two transitions to a separate portion of the postal bungalow to key in telegrams from morse code signals. In contrast to organizing letters, making telegrams asked for the player to key in each word individually atop of being cap sensitive as well. Even more, instead of spinning platforms the level swaps entire keys to different segments of the stage. Thankfully there is a dash feature to speed our movements and managed to clear the level.

Among all that there is to process from the demo alone, I had a handful of questions that I pressed Stonewheat & Sons’ Grant Gessel on. Speaking on the premise of the game’s cast, why exactly did the team decide on making a game about kiwis in the first place? Well, Gessel shared that the concept derived from a Game Jam with the theme is transmissions. However, the group also pulled a modifier to include birds of some sort.

He adds that one of the artists sketched a kiwi with a headset which settled for the character’s models and this later conjoined with the basis to run a post office when evolving from the given theme. This characteristic from the founding of the game did transition into the project as you can decorate either Jeff or Debra with hats and other kooky items.

Surprising as it may be, the team actually had already conjured another project prior to this project. Given the placeholder name “Spooky Tower Defense,” the game is pretty self-explanatory. But following the birth of what later became KeyWe refreshed the team’s ambitions.

“We decided we wanted to work on something that required less skill for anyone to pick up. The game – Spooky Tower Defense – would have tasks that might be more difficult for people to grasp like time management and strategy,” Gessel reveals about the initial project. ”Working on KeyWe is actually refreshing in a way,” he laughs while explaining, ”working on a larger project like that is a different pace to this which we really like.”

Going into detail on the core elements of the game, I raised the question towards the organization of levels. Gessel answered that each day in title is structured accordingly, but progressing through the duration of the game will transition to different season. Each period would introduce game changing affects respected to the time presented outside. However, Gessel clarified that the team was not ready to fully disclose how each seasonal interval would influence gameplay until the project if properly polished.

While he did tell that some instances will hold less of a challenge over others based on the respected season, watching the update trailer revealed that encounters like restoring power during a storm is one of the plenty that players can take on. Other activities like shipping packages and handling mail is also shown in the video, but alike the implemented seasons, Gessel’s lips are sealed for now.

One interesting aspect I discovered when researching the game is that you can play KeyWe with one controller. Although the game is intended to be played together, the option is available for those who don’t have anyone to play with. Stonewheat & Sons integrated two modes for controller use: duel-wielding which is the more challenging by controlling Jeff & Debra with each analog stick and the swap feature that rotates control of each bird. Additionally, there will be online multiplayer as well so you don’t have to share the screen.

Despite the short time being introduced to KeyWe on the show floor, we’re unfortunately left hungry for more as the game will not be arriving until next year. In the meantime, make sure you visit the game’s Steam page and add the title to you wishlist!

Regarding some of the other Sold Out-published titles featured at PAX East, I already provided coverage at previous events. Games like Ape Tribe Games’ Disjunction and Metronomik’s No Straight Roads you can read now on Rectifygaming.com.

KeyWe is scheduled to arrive sometime in 2021 for PC.

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