Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios / Developer: NinjaBee / Platform: XBLA

I was looking forward to this one, having loved A Kingdom For Keflings. The main appeal of that game was that it allowed you to use your Xbox360 Avatar in an actual game, as opposed to just watching it stand around on the Dashboard. As an additional bonus, the game also happened to be fun, in an addicting yet very zen sort of way.

A World Of Keflings is being called a sequel, but it contains so many improvements, additions, and refinements, it ends up making the original look more like the Beta. Games that utilize Xbox Avatars are no longer as uncommon as they were when the first game came out, but it’s possible this installment just might be the most fun.

The premise is that you (or your Avatar, anyways) find yourself in a land of tiny being called Keflings, who look up to you both figuratively and literally, viewing you as a wise and awe-inspiring giant. Your goal is to use your comparatively massive strength to help them build up their town. Because few of the Keflings are very intelligent, you also act as city planner, as well as assigning Keflings various tasks so they can help you in gathering the resources necessary for constructing various buildings.

As you build structures, newer and gradually more advanced structures are unlocked. In the original game, building could start to get a little tedious as your town grew bigger and bigger, because the larger your town, the further you had to walk to get to the individual pieces the buildings are made from. I’d figured this was meant to be part of the strategy of the game, making sure to structure in such a way as to make it easier to reach the buildings you used most often. So imagine my surprise when A World Of Keflings ended up fixing an aspect I hadn’t even realized they considered to be broken.

The first character you’re introduced to is Bob, a slightly larger than average Kefling who wants to help you out by carrying pieces to you so you don’t have to spend as much time walking back and forth. As the game progresses, you encounter more Bob-like characters (including his brother Doug, a reference to SCTV characters Bob and Doug McKenzie), making building even easier with each additional one you meet. And it gets better: after they’ve seen you build a particular structure once, they can finish buildings for you once you’ve put down the first piece (to show them where you want it built).

Other convenient additions include being able to whistle over any unused Keflings, giving you have an easier way to figure out if there are any just wandering around needing tasks assigned, and the ability to move a building after you’ve placed it, so you don’t have to destroy and rebuild it. Also, piece building factories now indicate how many of a particular piece you need to “order” for a particular blueprint, just to make things the process that much easier.

Where A Kingdom For Keflings all took place in a single kingdom on a single map, A World Of Keflings has you traveling between three different kingdoms via a teleportation gate. But rather than coming across as a lazy way to make the game seem longer, it actually adds some much needed visual diversity to the game. Each kingdom is requires a different number of buildings on maps of different sizes, with different types of terrain, and different types of Keflings.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the first game, it was the strange option to be able to kick these Keflings that were helping you out (and would continue to love you no matter how much you abuse them), a function that served no purpose other than to allow you to gain an Achievement, and fulfill one character’s odd request. A World Of Keflings not only retains this ability, but takes it one step further: Keflings will now gain levels after doing a job long enough, but you must bop them on the head to activate the level. At least bopping them on the head ends up seeming a bit more cute than giving them a swift kick that sends them a few yards, but the two actions being assigned to the same button means that you’ll sometimes be kicking Keflings that are standing too close to one that needed to be leveled up.

One new feature that you might never noticed unless you have a local buddy who wants to play two players is the amazing new dynamic split screen mode. Dynamic split screen only splits the screen once the two characters have walked a far enough distance from one another where one would be off screen, and it will split horizontally or vertically depending on the position of the two characters to each other. This isn’t the first game to utilize this, but it’s surprising that so few games have at this point. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be a standard feature in almost every new co-op side-scroller or platformer; there are some recent two-player Wii platformers I can think of in particular that would have benefited from this.

A World Of Keflings was released in tandem with Raskulls and ilomilo as part of a Games For The Winter promotion. Unlike a lot of other promotions, these games actually connect with each other if you own two or all three of them. This is represented in this game by allowing you to build a special house for Raskulls or Ilo and Milo, and the respective characters will wander about the kingdom. You can’t put them to work or interact with them in any meaningful way, but they do follow you around a little and watch what you’re doing while looking cute!

There’s also an in-game function that encourages sharing between any of your friends who also own the game. You start out with just a fraction of a total of 72 unique “collectible” pieces that can be placed in your kingdom. However, any other friends who own the game will have a slightly different set of pieces. By trading with enough friends, you’ll eventually be able to collect all 72. Or, you could just hope one of your friends already has them all…

A World Of Keflings is a fun, laid back game that can appeal to gamers of any age. It might not be perfect, but it’s likely the most fun you’ll have in a game with your Xbox Avatar.