From a distance, Cloudberry Kingdom looks like another Alien Hominid-style Flash game brought to consoles. It wasn’t until I dug deeper to learn of its premise, Kickstarter-funded background and most importantly, its procedurally-generated levels. Creating a platformer in this day and age is a terrifying prospect, especially one that looks more like a Flash game, than the current trendy pixelated motif. Developer Pwnee Studios has managed to capture what makes the genre good, but have yet to perfect it.
There are no secrets here, Cloudberry Kingdom tosses players into a world filled with spinning fireballs, swinging spikes and plenty of adversity. Every level randomly generates its challenge, but never makes it impossible. It is a clever design mechanic that will likely go unnoticed by most players that don’t bother to go back through. Even if they did, there are so many levels; they may not realize any of them are that different. It is all subtle, and there are only so many disintegrating platforms the team can mix up.
There is a story mode packed in, but I am not exactly sure why. It consists of all the usual tropes one would find in a videogame including a princess, a really mean bad guy and the fact that Bob (our hero) has to save the day. Characters are at least self-aware, which makes for some comical dialogue. It is also worth noting that the voice of Bob is played by Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) which is hilarious in its own right.
While the first few levels of the game gave me a false sense of security, things ramp up quickly. By the time I reached worlds five and six, new mechanics were inducing controller throwing moments. None of them are unfair design though. Instead every time I managed to kill Bob, it was because of a lack of patience, or a poorly timed jump. Factor in that the game tosses in new powers for Bob, also seemingly at random, and things really light up.
Adding a double jump can seem like a savior, while constantly changing Bob’s size makes for some ridiculously challenging platforming. The game is abusive, but abusive in the way Super Meat Boy was. It kept me coming back, and the quick reset was appreciated. The only difference here is that retries are not infinite, and in order to survive I had to make sure not to bring the counter down to zero.
In addition to delivering enough single player content to fill my needs, Cloudberry Kingdom also offers local co-op play for up to four players. Insanity is the best definition here. Unlike games like Rayman Legends and New Super Mario, bringing other players into the mix is more of a hindrance, than a joy. This is such a precision-based platformer, that tossing in other characters only adds to the frustration. I played this mode a handful of times, and each one increased my disgust for it. I love a good challenge, but this was simply frustrating.
There are a handful of other modes such as Time Attack, which requires the collection of coins to add precious seconds to the clock. Free Mode was probably my favorite though. Here levels are randomly generated based on a set of options I could choose such as type/amount of enemies, length and abilities. The game then takes these into consideration, and delivers fresh new levels. It is infinitely replayable, just don’t expect amazing variations.
Cloudberry Kingdom is a fun romp with a good gimmick to keep it fresh. I can easily see players getting lost in the challenge, while others will stop simply because of the frustration that comes from the later levels. While it could use some spice in the presentation department, there is no denying that Cloudberry Kingdom accomplishes what it sets out to do; and it does it very well.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.