Kine is a puzzle game where sentient boxes themed around instruments clomp around the city. All three of them have their own quirks, which is where the game gets you thinking about movement and placement. There’s a story mode that’s surprisingly relatable and dozens of increasingly difficult stages. And it ultimately all comes together pretty beautifully.
Kine’s band of boxes
The story revolves around three young boxes who have moved to the big city with big dreams to match. Roo is a free-spirited and adventurous piano girl shaped like a cube. Quat, the drums, is overconfident in his own abilities. Euler, the trombone, is shy, yet a regular at dance clubs. They come together to form a jazz trio. However, their different personalities cause strife within the band almost immediately. In one of their jam sessions, Roo can finish a stage with or without Quat, and each opens up a different story path, exploring Quat’s admiration or resentment. All in all, the story is about unlikely friends forming a band to survive and thrive in a new city.
Gameplay stems from the different ways that the characters extend their bodies to move around modular 3D stages. Roo rolls around the stage one square at a time but acquires an accordion for additional mobility. Quat himself is the simplest, with a stick that slides back and forth. Lastly, Euler uses two sliders to move. At first you’ll be solving puzzles with just one character, but as the game goes on, you’ll play sidequests as a duo and main quests as a trio.
The stages have a knack for reflecting the mood of the story. Quat is easily frustrated, so his stages get tighter and tighter. Roo-themed stages tend to be open but somewhat wild, and Euler’s are complex, requiring some deep three-dimensional thought. They combine to create intriguing levels, and that’s where Kine really shines.
That said, this aspect can also sometimes put a halt to the rhythm when the player is encouraged to experiment to figure out what works. It gets frustrating trying variations on the same thing, just to be missing something stuck behind a camera or only accessible after a complex series of turns. The game in general becomes agonizingly difficult around its last quarter, and Kine feels like a rare case where a hint system would have been nice.
The aesthetics are pitch perfect
The characters in Kine are cute, and I had a particular fondness for how the obtuse and acute angles represented the jagged edges of their personalities. They don’t fit in perfectly in a world composed of right angles, but they make due with what they have. The aesthetics of the city after hours were also very familiar to this old night owl. However, sometimes this cool style gets in the way of the gameplay. As mentioned, the camera isn’t great, and I found my view blocked in many of the stages. Moving it around helps a little, but it slowly drifts back.
As for the music, normally I don’t notice that stuff in a game unless it’s stellar. Kine is a story about living musical instruments, so the soundtrack should be excellent. And it is. I found myself humming a few tunes when the game wasn’t even on. There’s more to it than stylish jazz, though. The characters bop in time with the beat. When you’re doing well, they contribute their own sounds to the music. When you fail, they contribute cacophonous noise. The soundtrack is integrated in ways that players might not even realize.
Kine is a wonderful puzzle game that will exercise your spacial awareness and charm you with its story. The characters are relatable and surprisingly nuanced, and the visuals are appealing. The music is excellent and integrated into the gameplay in inviting ways. While the game gets incredibly difficult, serious puzzle players are sure to enjoy the challenge. It helped that Roo, Quat, and Euler reminded me of so many old friends, and I found myself wanting the best for the funky boxes as they strived to make their way in the big city. Maybe you will too.
A review code was provided by the publisher.