There is an undeniable allure to building something. Planning it, gathering the materials you need, putting in the labor, and then finally seeing it through to completion taps our inner need to create in deep and primal ways. A World of Keflings (AWoK), which exists almost solely to let you build stuff, hits that same nerve, but doesn't stick around quite long enough to be truly satisfy the construction urge.
Your avatar in AWoK is your actual Xbox Live Arcade avatar, which adds an extra layer of enjoyment as you tower over the teeny weeny Keflings, who come up to maybe your kneecaps. The Keflings are good hearted, hard-working folk, but they're collectively about as clever as a bag of hammers, and desperately need your help if they're ever going to improve their standard of living. Fortunately, you've got big muscles and nothing better to do, so it's time to get building.
Your efforts in A World of Keflings follow the same basic pattern. You collect blueprints for structures like homes, factories, and refineries; gather the resources you'll need to construct each building's components; then put it all together by laying out the components in the pattern indicated by the blueprint. Your end goal is to create a castle for the dim bulb king, but you'll have to complete a lot of steps along the way. Fulfilling the Keflings' basic needs, like houses and a workshop, is a simple matter of gathering a few scant handfuls of resources, but more sophisticated buildings require more complex components, which can only be built at more advanced facilities, so you're going to have to put your tiny new friends to work.
This is where AWoK could've become menu-obsessed or overly fussy, but teaching the Keflings how to do things is incredibly easy. If you need someone to start chopping wood and hauling it to the lumbermill, just pick up a Kefling, put him down in the forest, then pick him up again and put him down on the mill. Poof! You now have a lumberjack Kefling. Keflings get better at tasks the longer they do them, but as your need for certain raw materials decreases, you'll probably want to retrain some of your tiny workers to perform new tasks. To retrain a Kefling, you'll have to take off the hat he received when he started his job, but after that, you just have to drop him on whatever requires his attention.
Putting structures together is also a breeze; once you lay down your first building block, the rest are mapped out on the ground for you. Your followers will even carry the blocks over to you and, if you've used this blueprint before, will finish construction without needing to be told what to do.
You'll visit three different kingdoms in your quest to gather the necessary bits and pieces to construct the castle: the Ice Kingdom, the Desert Kingdom, and the Forest Kingdom. The Ice and Desert Kingdoms are both pretty small and really only exist to provide unique materials (metal and glass), which you can eventually ship to the Forest Kingdom. Keflings from all three kingdoms will make special requests, such as special buildings or for you to track down unusual resources, usually rewarding you with new blueprints when you complete the task. Although you can proceed at a languid pace, A World of Keflings is a linear game; you can't construct something until you've completed the buildings that come before it on your blueprint flowchart. You don't have to build every possible structure in order to complete the game, but you'll come close simply by working your way through the story.
A World of Keflings does an amazing job of taking the busywork out of construction, making it extremely easy to jump right in and get your kingdom growing, which is ironically part of the problem. The game just isn't particularly difficult. The closest the Keflings come to any sort of threat is a pesky dragon that you must shoo away, and all he does is perch in the wrong spot. You have a limited number of Keflings at your disposal, but more than enough to fill your coffers with the materials you'll need to finish every last blueprint. If AWoK just went a little farther in any one direction - either by presenting some danger you need to avoid, or making the actual building process deeper and more customizable - it would be hopelessly addicting, but as it is, it's a weekend's entertainment and little more. Once you've finished off the castle, there's little incentive to stick around, no matter how charming the wee Keflings are.
Bottom Line: A World of Keflings is a little too shallow to really satisfy the true builders in the crowd, but if you've ever felt overwhelmed by Sim City and others of its ilk, AWoK's casual approach may be more your speed. Plus, the appeal of shooting Keflings out of musical cannons simply cannot be overstated.
Recommendation: Try the demo; it'll tell you everything you need to know about how much you'll enjoy spending time with the charmingly dim-witted Keflings.
This review is based on the XBLA version of the game.
Game: A World of Keflings
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: December 22, 2010
Available from: Xbox Live
Susan Arendt won't kick chickens, but is more than happy to boot a Kefling or two.