With a name like Cloudberry Kingdom, you may be expecting something cute and fluffy. Well, forget that and welcome to platforming hell!
It is true that the name inspires visions of a magical world filled with all manner of harmless fluffkins, something that would perhaps feel at home in Adventure Time or some such. But anyone who took an interest in Cloudberry Kingdom when developers Pwnee Studios floated the idea on the crowdfunding site KickStarter will already know that the game was marketed as being a devilishly hard platformer, one for the fans of games such as Super Meat Boy and other “extreme” platforming titles.
And so it is that Cloudberry Kingdom is a platform game for those who just don’t swear at their TVs enough. The game ended up being published by Ubisoft and has made its way onto PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and the PC, making it available to the gaming masses. However, instead of noticing a rise in controller sales since the game was released, due to so many controllers being thrown around the room in a fit of frustrated rage, Cloudberry Kingdom has managed to aim its appeal at all types of platforming fans, and not just the platforming elite.
This is down to very clever automatically generated levels. Not only does this mean that the game can pack in a huge number of levels, even though some are barely different to others, but also that, through some clever variables, the game can create levels that are suited to the players skill level. Don’t get me wrong, the game still pushes the player, but things are far more approachable than they could have been.
The downside of these generated levels is that, with only a set number of variables, things can get repetitive. This is not helped by the fact that the majority of the levels are extremely quick, and can be finished in a matter of seconds. For the most part, running quickly and leaping at the right time will get the player through a level without the need to stop and think. This isn’t always the case, but the game can quickly bounce the player back to the start, or the last checkpoint on the larger levels, should this approach not work.
The levels are created around themes and there is a gradual increase in the difficulty as the game moves on, with the difficulty dipping somewhat with a change of theme, leaving the player with a difficulty curve that is incredibly wobbly. Should the player have difficulty with a level, there is help at hand in exchange for some collected pickups. This can be as simple as the game showing the player what to do, to slowing down the action for the more impossible levels.
The levels themselves are not exactly pretty, as you could maybe expect with the random nature, and include the standard objects that can be expected in most platform games. Floating blocks, disappearing blocks, bouncing blocks, spikes, saw blades, rotating fireballs – it is all pretty standard stuff. It is the speed with which the player can rush through them that gives the game an addictive quality, leading to the “one more level” mentality.
As previously mentioned, Cloudberry Kingdom can get repetitive with its randomly generated levels. To mix things up and keep it fresh, players will find themselves dealing with different abilities in different levels. One second, the player is running and jumping, in the next level they may have the chance to double jump, or even have a jetpack, and in the next they could find themselves attached to a wheel, really small or in a spaceship. The levels are designed around whatever ability the player finds themselves with, which can throw a spanner in the works when the player is not expecting such a change. It is when an ability is introduced that the player will need to take stock and adjust their playstyle, and most likely start the level again.
Cloudberry Kingdom packs in a huge story mode, which is rather lacking on the story front. The story is there, featuring an evil king and princess in need of rescuing, and the hero of the story, Bob, is voiced by Kevin Sorbo. It is just that the story is a distinct after thought compared with the hundreds of levels that the player has to tackle in the story. Still, it is quaint and has nice cut scenes.
Beyond the story, there is an arcade mode that features different objectives such as getting a good time, or scoring high, and there is the free play mode which allows the player to set the parameters of the level. So there is plenty to do once/if the story is ever finished.
But perhaps the greatest addition is allowing four players to tackle levels together. This leads to all manner of craziness, as only the first player to reach the end wins, and there is plenty of confusion to be had, especially in the more hazard filled levels. The confusion can be lessened somewhat with the chance to customise the heroes with different colours and outfits available, making sure that it is easy to identify each different player.
Cloudberry Kingdom is an addictive platformer that will be approached with a “quick hit” mentality, but in reality will lead to extended gaming sessions. It is not the most imaginative game, and things can get repetitive, but there are plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more platforming action with Bob.