Falling asleep in one place and waking up in another must be a scary thing for sleepwalkers. The recent downloadable PlayStation Network title, Akimi Village, takes that fear to the extreme. It has gamers playing as a male or female character who has been magically transported to a floating island in the sky, upon falling asleep. The full recap of events is not given at first, but you learn some new things as you go along. The only thing that is really important here, story-wise, is the fact that the talking raccoon who looks over the village needs your help to restore the world from gloom, by building it back up and planting life trees. Once that is done, you may return home.
Those who inhabit this strange floating landmass are known as the Akimi - tiny blue creatures who look a bit like a miniature/walking Frankenstein doll. A few of them have managed to escape the dark gloom that has taken over most of their village, but the majority of their people did not, becoming trapped within. In order to build the world, establish a new village and restore its vitality, gamers must employ these little creatures to collect crops, chop wood, harvest straw and run constructed factories/institutions. Think of it as Pikmin meets Harvest Moon, with building elements. Though it's most similar to the first Keflings game - being from the same developer (NinjaBee,) which loves to make these types of life simulators.
Instead of using a gigantic hand as an indicator, the developers at NinjaBee decided to go the Keflings route by allowing you to walk amongst your little worker bees as a god. They'll do as you ask, though if you take a break for a while, so will they. Walk over to one of the basic blue fellows and pick him up, then show him the crop that he has to tend to and the place to cart the supplies to. These little guys can be trained at schools to become educated (so that they can run certain institutions,) and can also be given trades advancement training at constructed training centres.
It's that simple, but there can be a lot of walking involved within just that simple task, making you wish that there was a simpler way, considering how this has to be done for every one of them individually. The odd time, the input won't go in as planned (usually because the flash on the building to indicate its selection will go off if you move an inch,) so they'll drop the stuff right beside there. That means new training, picking the stuff up yourself or hiring another inchling to do so.
When your village really gets going, there will be tons of workers to keep track of - each one colour-coded based on the type of work he's doing, though it all becomes a blur after a while with so many moving from point A to point B and then back again. Since your goal is to build the world, all of the crops must be properly harvested using the correct buildings (lumber yards, fine wood workers, decorative stone cutters, etc.) to allow for the creation of the building blocks you'll need for each of the different places you construct.
The term building blocks applies because they're items placed in a grid-like pattern that is shown on blueprints, which are unlocked by building earlier and/or related buildings. However, they're essentially just tiny versions of things like a fireplace, entryway, stairs or library. Just smaller representations of products that meld together to complete the finished building. Once complete, each building looks different in its own way, though cluttered/busy islands can lead to confusion because the buildings are similar colours and meld together in your mind after a while. These buildings can be broken down and moved if you feel so inclined as to coordinate their locations once you get rolling.
Luckily, there isn't a ton of micromanaging to do in terms of constantly having to check supplies or being forced to always switch villagers' roles. You'll do that on occasion, but not every couple of minutes. The same main building blocks are used repeatedly (with changes coming later in the game once you've build finess plants,) and most of these components use the same types of crops to complete. Efficiency can help, if you go the extra mile to make your delivery workers' routes easier (they'll run into each other a lot and it'll cause a bit of a slowdown, but nothing really major.)
Available to be played entirely in single player, Wahoo Games built Akimi Village to be a social experience, allowing for co-operative play. Gamers can visit their friends' villages, send crops/supplies through post office crates, and assign totems to their pals. Those totems are basically customizable progress indicators that look like bird houses. Taking a look at one of the several different totems on your island, which you've assigned to a friend, will let you know how far they are and how much land they've purified through visual indicators.
These types of games only apply to a specific audience (of which I consider myself to be apart of, being a huge Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing fan over the years.) That's because they're very repetitive and can become tedious after a while, as gameplay consists of doing similar things on repeat. With the aforementioned games, there was quite a bit to do so I was never bored.
That isn't the case here however, as Akimi Village doesn't afford players the opportunity to do anything that interesting. The only gameplay to be found within its megabytes is simply what I've described before - assign jobs, harvest crops (yourself if you wish, through cumbersome mechanics,) or construct buildings. It severely lacks any sort of variety or personality, which is draining. Rebuilding a world through management is a decent premise, but you can't be doing the same thing one hundred percent of the time. Its core mechanics are decent and can become addictive over short periods of time, but issues and a lack of creativity mar the experience.
The world of Akimi Village is quite basic in design, visual fidelity and styling. It takes on a cartoon look, though to be honest, it resembles an up-rezzed game from the N64 or PSX era. Since I'm not a graphics afficianado, that would be fine with me if it worked (and maybe had a bit of personality in its look.) The world just doesn't have any unique charm, unfortunately. For some strange reason, despite its basic look, the world of the Akimi also chugs quite a bit when the camera swoops over newly revitalized areas.
It also has buildings which look very similar (apart from some shape differences and the odd hint of colour,) making it hard to identify where to go at times. Not to mention the fact that it can be difficult to find items with all of the confusion. Creating something by accident happens a lot and you need to keep track of it, or else there will be no shop indicator showing its need for a construction process. Try to just make what you need or else it causes great confusion. There are very few indicators present, so it can be easy to get lost or to get yourself stuck, especially when you're searching for the elusive educated fish needed to run certain institutions.
Rebuilding the Akimi Village is a lengthy procedure that will give you at least several hours of task-based gameplay. It's not a run and gun game or anything pulse-pounding, which is reflected in its musical score and moderate use of sound. The game features tranquil music that plays in the background throughout the experience. It's very easy to forget that it's even there (though it's half-decent.) Additional sound comes in the form of the odd basic sound effect, as well as what could be described as a bit of 'Simlish.' The only real talker in the world is the talking owl, who speaks a bunch of mumble jumble to go along with his dialogue.
Akimi Village is a very basic game that will only appeal to a certain type of gamer. One who is willing to invest a decent amount of time into restoring the vitality of a world, through repetitive actions. Due to this and its aforementioned issues, it's hard to recommend to anyone other than the hardcore life simulator fans. If its issues and mechanics were worked upon, polished and infused with some more life, this game could be quite good. Though, as it is right now, it sits at the teetering point of mediocrity. The building blocks are there, but they need some refinement and expansion.