NinjaBee made its mark on the Xbox 360 in 2009 when A Kingdom for Keflings was the first Xbox Live Arcade game to have playable avatars in-game. For those who missed it, it was a laid-back city-building game where you played as a giant who had to manage little people known as Keflings. By picking up Keflings and placing them on a resource, they would automatically start gathering as you worked on expanding the kingdom. Akimi Village brings the same stress-free gameplay to the PlayStation Network, but with a few changes to make it stand out and attract a wider audience. NinjaBee stopped by during the Game Developers Conference to introduce us to the sproutlike Akimi.
You can choose to play as a male or female character in Akimi Village, where your goal is to purify an island, because for some mysterious reason, you've ended up on a floating island high up in the sky. Guided by an old tanooki, you learn that you have to bring the gloomy island back to life. Once you meet the Akimi, it's hard not to be charmed by their adorable expressions and goofy outfits. In the Keflings game, when your little minions changed roles, you'd change their hat. The Akimi change color, as well as their entire costume, when you change their profession with a quick swat to the face. The ability to kick these poor workers is still included as well, so you can drop-kick your Akimi to the next building to give them a head start.
In our demo we chose the female giant to play with: a young girl with a flower in her hair and sandals. She skips along as she moves around the island, so the tone of the game is definitely mellow. Most of the island is covered in darkness with sad, gloomy Akimi populating those areas. To get these Akimi to help you, you have to find ways to bring light to these shadowy corners of the land, and then they will join you on your quest for purification.
One resource is bamboo. To collect it, you just need to place an Akimi near a patch, and it will automatically use its rickshaw to bring the bamboo back to the building that stores it. Resources can now be accessed from any building, so there's less walking around between structures. Hay is another resource, and it's generated by building farms. There's a limit to how much hay you can gather, since it's a resource that you can actually build. Each day you're given only so much hay to collect, so you have to build more farms if you want to be able to gather more quickly. Blueprints are available for you to build new structures, and we were told that the buildings will be bigger and grander than the ones in A Kingdom for Keflings.
There are no time limits or ways to really mess up in this game, because the goal is to eventually expand across the island. As you're gathering resources and building new structures, you'll earn culture points. In increments of 10, you'll get seeds from the tanooki, which you then plant anywhere on the island to purify that area. To keep with the nature theme, some structures require that you build next to water or close to other land features for it to work. Unlike in A Kingdom for Keflings, you don't have to go through the entire tech tree to complete the game--the goal really is to plant seeds and spread the warmth of sunlight throughout the enchanting island. You'll also gain abilities as time goes on, so in some cases you can clear the debris in the neighboring gloomy areas and rescue a few sad Akimi.
There won't be any cooperative feature this time around, and NinjaBee has yet to reveal all the multiplayer features. However, we do know that there is asynchronous multiplayer, so you can affect another person's game without that person needing to be online at the same time. Depending on how well you manage your resources, it can take anywhere from eight to 10 hours to complete the game. We look forward to seeing more of the game and putting these cute Akimi to work. Akimi Village is set to be released sometime this spring.