A Kingdom For Keflings
Like Populous sans armageddon or SimCity minus the alien invasions, A Kingdom For Keflings is a town-building game for the conflict-averse. Your low-pressure task is to transform a bucolic meadow into a bustling hamlet, and if you succeed, the Keflings thank you with a little dance. If you fail—well, you won't fail. The only losing move is not to play.
Given the low stakes and nonexistent threat of failure, it's a surprise that the game's routine—gather resources, assemble parts, unlock blueprints for new buildings—manages to be so addicting. Rather than an invisible "hand of God," you're a giant who (lovingly) kicks and grabs the worker-bee Keflings to make them do your bidding. This tactile element adds a lot to the game. When you train a crystal miner to bring her haul to the witch's hut, there's a sense of accomplishment that you don't get from clicking and dragging with a faceless cursor.
The fun does wear thin as you approach the ultimate goal of completing the town's castle. In spite of the sense that something new is always around the corner, the action after 10 hours of play is pretty much the same as it is after two. Co-op mode is a neat twist, offering the chance to coordinate your efforts with somebody other than the mindless Keflings. Aside from that, the customization options are too limited to make replay enticing.
Beyond the game: Keflings is one of the first games to support the Xbox's avatars. Experience the thrill of a giant who kind of almost resembles your genericized appearance!
Worth playing for: After a stretch of frenzied urban planning, it's hypnotic to zoom out and watch the Keflings flit around, happily executing your grand design.
Frustration sets in when: The blueprints for the most complex buildings get squished, even on a large screen, rendering their details too tiny. Tiresome zooming and menu-switching ensues.
Final judgment: Keflings' charm and habit-forming rhythm make it worth the price. Just don't expect it to hold your interest beyond the first playthrough.