Pwnee Studios describe Cloudberry Kingdom as an “intense, focused, never-ending platformer.” They couldn’t be more right, let me explain to you why.
Before I begin with the actual in game story, let me give you a bit of history behind Cloudberry Kingdom. Originally beginning as a Kick-starter project back in 2012 with a target goal of $20,000 and being described as “the hardest platformer ever”. It is beyond me why anyone would back a game that sounds so challenging but none the less their goal was achieved with an extra $3500 to spare. With the majority of funds being pooled to configure Pwnee Studios game algorithm that can design an infinite number of levels and adjust the in game difficulty based on the individual player but I will go into more detail about that in our “gameplay” heading.
Cloudberry Kingdom’s Princess is being kidnapped by a man named Kobbler. Coming to her rescue is a retired hero named Bob (voiced by Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame). After Kobbler momentarily gains an advantage he uses this to escape leaving Bob to give chase to save Cloudberry’s Princess and this is the gamers cue to begin chipping away at this games several hundred level story mode.
Cut scenes play out introducing you to the several varieties of backgrounds to play in and also provide a lot of humour, some of it toilet humour, some of it witty and the rest is just a chuckle because it is chuckle worthy. All are excellent and well-timed along with quality voice acting particularly by Sorbo but that may just be my inner child being very biased.
Game play is presented in a cartoon style which works very well for its self by highlighting the features of whatever environment you may be playing in at the time be it a frozen forest or a lava filled dungeon. Foreground interactables and dangers are portrayed the same which I found all works very well mixed together and to the developers credit throughout all the levels, combining the intense precise game play I never had an issue with determining what was relevant to gameplay and wasn’t during my intensely focused sessions.
There is some amazing music to be herd during your game play but unfortunately like I’ve said earlier this game requires a lot of intense focus and I was rarely ever able to pay a great deal of attention to the track title or artist that appears in the bottom left corner. Let me assure you though although I didn’t see the names. The beats being laid down certainly do aid your gaming experience and giving what felt to me like a rhythm to jump to in game levels at times.
This game is a basic design in terms of its cartoony appearance and ever so simple controller layout but it is all done well to Pwnee’s credit.
Perhaps my most favourite bit of the presentation was the “hero customisation” where you can create your own hero to take to the game. Given all the jumping I created mine as close to Superman as I could, blue suit and red cape. Who better to perform death defying leaps? Unfortunately I did die a lot more times than Superman ever has. Such a simple idea but works well and builds upon this games already strong feature of individuality.
As I’ve said earlier story mode has several hundred levels but what’s amazing about that is that each level no matter what game mode you are in is unique to you. An algorithm designed by Jordan Fisher. Can generate levels that will cater to the individual’s skill, providing a challenging gaming experience with an infinite possibility of levels.
Whilst the computer uses the said algorithm to randomly create the challenging levels it can quickly become very frustrating as essentially what you are trying to beat is the computer, yes I know that sounds silly because isn’t that what most games are about? Here is why, this algorithm in its harder level design has been made to produce levels that are solvable they also require precise focus and timing, dodging laser beams, enemies and every other obstacle this game can throw at you. You just have to see a demo video of the difficult game play to understand what I’m talking about. If I could offer you one word of advice for this game in its harder levels it is to back yourself, don’t hesitate or second guess yourself. I found that going through the levels as fast as I could was usually the road to success. This makes sense in a computers thought process. Unfortunately though this makes a successful level run feel very forced, robotic and unpleasant.
To help counter the feeling of this Pwnee has laid out collectables in each level that are crystals. These can be picked up and accumulated throughout your game to aid you in those much more difficult levels. One of three options to choose from. You can let the computer show you the correct route from start to finish in a short video. You can let the computer guide you through the level as you play or simply slow down time to give you a much clearer and less cluttered view of obstacles.
Along with story mode there is also free play where you can choose the parameters of you game and arcade. Inside arcade there is escalation where the collection of crystals accumulates you lives through your game. Time Crisis which is essentially the same but collecting crystals gives you more time and Hero Rush which again is like time crisis but at the completion of each level you are awarded a power up. Power ups are offered through Cloudberry Kingdom as a form of variety to shake things up. Unfortunately I felt as if they weren’t used very well particularly in story. They would appear for about a string of 10 levels swap for another 10 then it felt like the game completely forgot about them for ages. Power ups are available in different forms such as wings for a double jump, a spring loaded horse for extra height in a jump, a jet-pack or even shrinking the player, which may sound silly but I found being smaller gave me a bit more room to dodge obstacles.
Whilst lacking an online multiplayer and leader boards there was an interesting take on local multiplayer. Up to four mates can join locally to participate in games modes, there is a catch however. You are all tethered together with the task of completing the level. I found it works well and is a great way to enjoy a quality game with those close to you.
I would not hesitate to recommend this game to anyone to play. In particular though I cannot wait for the Vita version of Cloudberry Kingdom, this game would be amazing to get through any gamers morning commute. It is great to see such hard work pay off from a humble beginning in the Kick-starter program. The work they have done with their algorithm for generating infinite levels is outstanding even though I did find myself at times getting frustrated with the difficulty of it.