System(s): Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Ubisoft (Pwnee Studios)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence and Suggestive Themes
Cloudberry Kingdom may sound like a wonderful place that resides in the clouds where the food of choice is different varieties of delicious berries. Once you walk through the gates of this kingdom, all of those notions come to a screeching halt as you realize you’re in for a world of hurt. Now you have to decide. Is it worth it to stay around and fight through the pain or turn around and run as fast as your legs will carry you?
Out of paper
What you get with Cloudberry Kingdom is a side-scrolling, obstacle course platformer. The setup is that the Hero tries to rescue the princess from the evil king, with some amusing twists thrown in for comedic effect.
Yes, this sounds very generic and easy to dismiss but this is not the reason you play this style of game. Seeing how far you can go before you rage quit is the goal. There is some great usage of paper craft stop animation cutscenes that I wish was used more throughout Cloudberry Kingdom. Even the addition of using Kevin Sorbo and his wife Sam Sorbo as voice talent, it’s a little bit of a let down. Neither are used as much as they could have been.
I know the story is not the main attraction. But the animation is well produced and the voice talent fantastic, so I was sad it wasn’t used more.
Missed it by that much
Precision is a must if you’re going to survive past Story mode’s first couple of chapters of Cloudberry Kingdom, and even hope to ever make it to the seventh and final chapter. Each chapter consists of 40 levels to make your way through. That number is not so extreme when you realize that the levels are super short, most lasting 10 seconds. What makes the levels stretch out longer is when the difficulty spikes upward. Unless you know the exact path and timing, you’re going to fail. If you think you can pause for a second halfway through to collect your thoughts and look for the pattern, you’re going to fail.
I had to learn all this the hard way until I used some of the power-ups in Cloudberry Kingdom. By using the gems collected in each level to activate them, slowing down time or showing the path helped me get past some of the more intricate procedurally generated levels. A third power-up ends up being more of a confirmation that the level you think is impassable for any human to complete, can in fact be accomplished. Having the game’s A.I. show me how “easy” it is to complete the level just ends up stinging my ego that much more for my incompetence.
The precise controls are great when in classic mode. However, when the character modifiers start popping up in the later levels, that’s when precision is not enough. On top of learning the nuances of the controls and timing and awareness of the obstacles, throwing modifiers in the mix adds to the frustration in ways that will turn some people away from wanting to play through the rest of the story. Throwing too many curveballs at the player is a problem that is hard for anyone to balance out fairly. Luckily, there are other modes in which to get punished a little more fairly in Cloudberry Kingdom.
In the Arcade mode, four different options are available to explore. Escalation tests how long you can last until you lose all of your lives. Time Crisis pits you against a 15 second timer with gems adding precious seconds to the clock. Hero Rush is a take on Time Crisis but mixing up the modifiers to add to the complexity. Hybrid Rush ends up inflicting you with multiple modifiers to make things that much more chaotic. Each mode as well as the story has leaderboards showing how many other players out there are way better than you at pattern recognition as well as possessing cat-like reflexes.
Free Play is where the creative and sadistic ideas come into fruition. Having all the options, difficulty and modifiers at your disposal, you can create a torturous monstrosity and have three other people play alongside you in local co-op. The insanity that ensues is great for a little while. So much happening at once on the screen makes it hard to navigate which ends up being more fun than expected. Turning on Cloudberry Kingdom during a party or when friends are over to have a quick jaunt through the game in Free Play mode is perfect. Anything longer negates the fun experience everyone just had.
Cloudberry Kingdom makes good on the concept of a challenging platformer that needs precision and skill to make it through. The repetitious nature of the levels, mixed with small usage of the stylistic art hurts the overall experience, however. Cloudberry Kingdom is a noble effort by Pwnee Studios and I’m hopeful they can build upon this idea into something greater.
Site [Pwnee Studios]