Cloud gaming is the future. While it may never replace disk-based or downloadable games, OnLive has progressed from proof of concept to viable business in a very short amount of time. The typical reaction when a gamer tries OnLive for the first time is one of surprise; surprise that the library is so strong; surprise that, with limited exceptions, it’s hard to tell you’re gaming from the cloud; and surprise that the overarching service is as easy to use as any other gaming platform.
Last week, OnLive launched it’s mobile client for Android devices (an iOS version is coming soon) and NinjaBee’s Kingdom for Keflings is one of the first games to support touch controls. Of course, if you have a controller (like OnLive’s newly released Universal Controller) that works with your mobile device, you can use that. The result is a complete experience that is playable on WiFi or 3G, with everything that OnLive’s service is known for. This includes spectating, recording brag clips, posting to Facebook and playing all of the games you have Playpasses for.
Kingdom for Keflings is a perfect fit for mobile gaming. You take on the role of a (mostly) benevolent giant, assigning tasks to the Keflings like peons in a real-time strategy. They chop wood, mine minerals and gems and sheer sheep. All of these materials can be further refined to build the necessary components of more buildings. You’ll start by building a home (complete with love) to create new Keflings, before building workshops, a town hall and various buildings to further refine the materials you need.
As you build and lay the components based on unlocked blueprints, the mayor (whom you appoint) will assign you tasks. These, most often, involve collecting and/or refining a set amount of a resource. This is addicting, even with a bit too much micromanagement. In order to assign a Kefling a task, you need to pick one up, drop it on the resource you want it to collect, pick it up again, and then drop it where you want the Kefling to deliver the material. You’ll also need to assign Keflings to transport milled lumber and other refined resources to a destination.
Moving buildings and even excess resources, which are not shared globally, but assigned to specific workshops, is a bit too tedious. Additionally, if you want a Kefling to harvest a specific area of resources (since there are tools, love and textbooks hidden beneath them, on the map), you need to constantly monitor them. They tend to move to other areas on their own, which I found frustrating.
The ultimate point of the game is to unlock all the blueprints and build a Keep then a castle. This isn’t a short game, but there is always something to do unless you reach a bottleneck. As I mentioned, some buildings require rare materials like love and textbooks. Should you find yourself in need of a textbook, for example, and none are available, you’ll be manually harvesting resources in hope of uncovering one. This bogged down my playtime, leaving me bored since I wasn’t making any progress.
The touch controls are finicky. You can either tap on a location to have your giant move to it, but since you can’t zoom out too far, you’ll often be dragging your finger, with your giant following along, to get to your destination. If you are carrying something, though, you’ll likely end up accidentally dropping it when you finally do stop, necessitating you to pick the item back up to properly place it again. Picking up Keflings is an exercise in frustration with the touch controls, too. I often had a hard time catching up to them when they were on the move. Even when they did stop, it was too likely that I would click on the resource they were harvesting instead of the tiny worker.
Thankfully, there are no enemy invaders or time limits to contend with, so tapping on the wrong thing won’t cause you to lose. It just gets a bit tedious having to take a few more actions than would be necessary with a controller or keyboard and mouse. The music is light and whimsical; fitting of the art style. I never did get tired of hearing the terrified Keflings scream in terror when my boy-giant picked them up. Oh, and you can kick them for some reason. If you’re feeling vindictive, have at it.
Visually, the game has a very kid-friendly, cartoony look. The changing seasons are a nice touch that prevents you from staring at the same small map throughout the entire game. The variety is greatly appreciated.
Overall, Kingdom for Keflings remains the charming game it has been since its release in 2008. The new touch controls, even with their faults, provide a level of accessibility for those interested in playing the game using OnLive’s new mobile client. For anyone with a compatible Android device, this is worth checking out. OnLive and NinjaBee should be commended for bringing this high quality experience to mobile devices.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher.