I recently played two games, both revolving around the delivery of packages to those in need. It is only natural then to compare these two, and which one ultimately better accomplishes the goal of living the fantasy of being the world’s greatest postmaster.
The two games in question are, legendary game designer Hideo Kojima’s latest title, Death Stranding, and Key We, a title made by a team called Stonewheat & Sons who are surprisingly difficult to find any information about.
In order to make sure this is a fair and objective comparison, I am breaking the games down into several categories and assigning a point for each. Seems fair, right? The categories are; characters, feeling of cooperation, world building, reward for a ‘job well done’ and ‘the little things’.
The characters in Death Stranding each have their own quirks, whether it is the lovable Deadman who is literally 70% cadaver, or the bug scoffing courier Fragile, there’s no shortage of weirdos to encounter on your journey from coast to coast.
There’s a lot to chew on when it comes to the characters and their interactions with one another. In typical Kojima fashion, many of these are extremely on the nose, like Heartman literally having a heart-shaped heart, or Sam Porter Bridges being a porter who builds bridges, but it is a testament to the game that I’m willing to let that slide. Something no other game could get away with, I’m sure.
Although the characters are never as iconic as a Grey Fox, Solid Snake, Psycho Mantis or even Fat Man from Kojima’s previous work, they keep you intrigued until the credits roll. Sometimes long afterwards if you’re as dumfounded as me with the main narrative.
Oh, some of the designs are really sick too, particularly Higgs, his Egyptian inspired look is awesome, and you can tell a lot of work went into making him look as menacing as the game wants you to believe he is. Ultimately I bet him up by hitting him with stray packages.
Winner: Key We
Feeling of Cooperation
Death Stranding puts a large emphasis on helping others – using the rope to tie us together rather than the stick to beat us apart. Whether you’re adding resources to build a highway to deliver your next shipment along, or just dropping a ladder across a particularly deep body of water, there’s a great sense of comradery in Death Stranding.
This is all provided that you can suspend your disbelief that every single person you’re helping looks exactly like Norman Reedus, and they’re all going on the same quest. If you think about it too much, it really does fall apart, but it is nice to see that a bridge I built is being used by players all around the world.
Despite the best efforts of Kojima to build a game where people are encouraged to help one another, there’s no substitute for being on the couch next to a fellow package handler and telling them exactly what needs to be done.
There is a fantastic sense of cooperation in Key We which is derived from not being completely reliant on each other to get a task done, some things need to be done together, but others can be left to one party to complete. I know that when I play with my partner, when it comes to printing out post codes, she has got this. This level of trust in my fellow human, although replicated in Death Stranding, was not quite as successful.
Key We is also surprisingly lenient when it comes to this stuff, being nowhere near as punishing as Overcooked or Moving Out.
Winner: Key We
One of Death Stranding’s greatest strengths is the intrigue and world which has been lovingly crafted here. I go into a bit more detail about this in my full review, but if you have seen the trailers, you know what I mean. You spend a lot of the narrative just trying to figure out how much weed you need to smoke for all of this to line up coherently, and I love it.
Bizarre and unapologetic, the world of Death Stranding isn’t easily forgotten.
The world of Key We is inhabited by humans, but you only ever see one – the owner of the post office. If you were to try and escape this (perhaps forced) labour, what horrors would be waiting for you in the outside world? Why must transmissions be decoded and forwarded on in such a convoluted way? What are they really used for? Without a voice to speak up and bring this twisted crossroad of messages to light, animals really would make the perfect work force.
Questions like this constantly crossed my mind whilst playing Key We, and perhaps not intentionally, there might be a fascinating world to explore here. Probably not though, I might be clutching at straws a bit, just a tad.
Winner: Death Stranding
Reward for ‘a job well done’
Each completed run in Death Stranding results in a screen which gives you a grade, usually ‘S’ rank for me since I’m the best postman going, on the scale of things, I’m definitely more DPD than Yodel. In addition to this though, you will also be bombarded with walls of dialogue telling you how much this will help the recovery of humanity – “Sam, this pizza will literally save lives here”.
The problem here though is that none of these benefits for delivery are ever shown to us, we are only ever told that we have done a good job. I want to see a thriving civilization after connecting a remote town to super-fast fibre broadband. I want to see the newly acquired Redditors posting toxic opinions in my wake.
Key We on the other hand rewards me with cute hats and haircuts for my kiwi. By putting the hours in, grafting and wiping the sweat from your brow, you too can have a backpack full of baguettes with an adorable frying pan pinned to the side.
It’s not just hats, fur and backpacks though, you also get glasses that you can dress your kiwi in. Need I say more?
Winner: Key We
The little things
Death Stranding has a lot of things going for it, and the details and range of weirdness that you can can get up to is quite astounding. Not all of it serves to drive the greater narrative, but some of it is endearing. Whether it is Kojima’s trademark crudeness, or genuine cute interactions between Sam and BB (the baby in the jar).
These interactions include, but are not limited to;
- The ridiculous tumbling animations as you load Sam up like a sadistic Buckaroo game
- There’s a button to urinate
- You can rock the baby using the motion sensors in the controller
- You can watch Norman Reedus shower as much as you’d like
There’s a squark button.
Winner: Death Stranding
The final stamp
It’s official. I don’t know what to tell you, in this objective comparison between Death Stranding and Key We, Key We is clearly the better game. Tell your friends. Kojima’s next few projects better hope to hit the high watermark of Stonewheat & Sons debut outing if Kojima Productions wants to be around in the coming years.
All jokes aside, I really like both games. I never see anyone talking about Key We, and that’s really sad, because it’s great fun. If you have a partner to play with, and you like games like Overcooked, Snipperclips and Moving Out, you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot. The approachable difficulty here is also a bonus, meaning that you are more likely to spend time discussing and cooperating than screaming and scrapping. It’s free on Game Pass and PS+, so give it a go and let me know what you think.