This review was written by Maura and originally appeared on PSPMinis.com on October 1, 2009.
Have you ever been sitting playing games or watching TV late at night and heard muffled squeals and occasional bursts of baritone opera coming from your sofa cracks? Of course you have, who hasn’t?! You probably thought you were going stark raving bonkers, didn’t you? Well, never fear, there’s an easy explanation for all of this, which can be summed up in one word: Kahoots.
Kahoots are tiny mouse-like critters made of plasticine who live in the folds and crevices of your sofa. They may be small, but they have big dreams, dreams that don’t involve staring at butts all day and living off cake crumbs and cat fur balls. Nope, the Kahoots want out of the sofa, which is where you come in. Kahoots aren’t exactly the most dexterous or bright of creatures, in fact all they know how to do is to march relentlessly onward in one direction on platforms made of blocks. Your job is to use your hopefully superior powers of lateral thinking to plan a safe escape route for the Kahoots, moving the regular platform blocks around using the d-pad and X to create new pathways, and strategically placing special blocks in the Kahoot’s path to redirect it towards freedom. It’s kind of like a modern Minis version of Lemmings, so if you were a Lemmings freak back in the day then you’re sure to love Kahoots on the PSP.
The gameplay is spread over 50 levels, getting increasingly complicated as more and more special blocks are added. You can only switch two blocks of any type at a time (some, such as Bolt Blocks, can’t be moved at all). The special blocks include the likes of Boing Blocks, which bounce the Kahoots up in the air a short distance and can be very useful when it comes to avoiding hazardous Spike Blocks, for example. Not all of the blocks are helpful, and most should be used with caution to avoid propelling your Kahoot into harm’s way.
On the later levels there are so many special blocks thrown in that it’s hard to keep one step ahead of your little Kahoot, and you’ll find yourself having to think with the foresight of a chess strategist, planning several moves down the line as your relentless friend trundles on its merry way. If you need a little more planning time you can hold down the PSP’s left shoulder button to freeze the Kahoot, although bear in mind that you can’t move any blocks while he’s frozen. Holding down X to move a block also has the same effect of momentarily freezing the Kahoot. Alternatively, you can hold down the right shoulder button to make the Kahoot speed up; unlike with the Freeze button, you can still move blocks when the FFW button is held down.
Generally speaking the control method is very intuitive and user friendly and you’ll pick it up in a matter of moments. When it all comes together and you pull off a daring escape, the feeling of satisfaction is very rewarding, but if you make a mistake and guide your Kahoot straight onto a Spike Block, or into the chomping mouth of a Kahoot-killing Cardborg, well, that pitiful squeak of pain and those teensy flailing arms and legs are not a pretty sight my friend, not pretty at all.
For those of you who like collecting things, you can unlock Awards by carrying out various tasks, such as moving 50 blocks. Any Awards that you earn will be listed in the corresponding section of the main menu. This is also where the giant cakes that you find in the levels come into play, as if you collect them all you will unlock an Award. You can also unlock other goodies such as fun Kahoots Polaroids.
The cute look of the whole thing is very appealing. It’s all very basic, but the silly sound effects and even sillier music all add to the cuteness factor, as do the funny messages spelt out in some of the blocks on the levels. If you like the crazy characters in Little Big Planet then you’ll love the real star of Kahoots, the Pegbeast, an opera-singing woollen toy with a clothes-peg head and a button for an eye who sings the instructions for each level in a ridiculously deep and sombre voice. Surely it’s only a matter of time before he has his own puzzle game?
If we were looking to be hyper-critical, we’d say that Kahoots is not for everyone. If twee characters and puzzle games make you want to bang your head against the nearest wall, then you should probably give Kahoots a miss. And even if you do revel in lashings of quaint adorableness, or have been longing for a new variant on the Lemmings theme, there’s probably a limit to how many times you can hear the little varmints squeaking before it starts to get irritating, and the gameplay will probably get repetitive after several days of constant play. However, at the ridiculously low price of £2.49, it would be churlish to dwell for too long on such minor shortcomings, and it also bears noting that in Kahoots we have yet another fine example of the Minis ethos in full effect, with it having been tailor-made for the system on a tiny budget by innovative three-person studio Honeyslug. Yet another launch day triumph that shows that Sony have a very forward-thinking approach where Minis are concerned.