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Cloudberry Kingdom

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By Mokman29-08-2013
Bobfish (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Cloudberry Kingdom

The Defence

Developer:
Pwnee Studios
Publisher:
Ubisoft
Genre:
Platformer
Release Date:
02-08-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz
AMD Athlon 64 X2 2.0 GHz
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8500 GT
AMD Radeon HD 2600 XT
RAM:
1 GB
HDD:
750 MB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

There exists a fascination with the hardcore. Now, before you all begin complaining in the comments below, know that I am talking about gaming difficulty. Gamers have a strangely infatuated, almost masochistic relationship with games. The games that constantly abuse them with ever-increasing difficulty levels. Especially when one takes a look at the games of last year. I mean seriously, ever tried finishing Contra without using the famed Konami Code? And don't even get me started on Ninja Gaiden. Cloudberry Kingdom, an indie developed platformer that was just recently released, is a love song to these nostalgic gems from our past. A tribute to the incredible difficulties we faced in our youth - and surprisingly, a step forward into the future of that aspect in the gaming industry. However, does it pass of as something that is contrived, a throwback merely for the sake of nostalgia, or does it shine as a masterpiece?

The Trial

Well, if I were to simply talk about the graphics and art design it would clearly be the former. Unfortunately, Cloudberry Kingdom suffers from that now-old indie problem - a somewhat cartoonish, somewhat cute, but altogether uninteresting art direction. Too often do indie developers not realize how downright important it is to incorporate wonderful art design, design that absolutely fits the theme, into the game. In Cloudberry Kingdom, however, I can only state two distinct moments where I found the art somewhat fitting.

Yep, expect much more of this.

Yep, expect much more of this.

One was when I first saw the insane levels, chock full of obstacles that had just the right colour palette to give the overwhelming impression of volume - which worked wonderfully in shocking me. The repetition and mass of details were imperative in giving me a good sense of the level, telling me that this was no longer an "Easy-Mode" modern game. Second was the customization of the main character, which is something that is sorely lacking in many indie games, but, as evident by my cape-wearing, top-hat toting maniac of a main character, was added to great effect in this game.

Unfortunately, that is where the sparkling facets of the design and graphics in end. The rest is relatively dull, with cutscenes in a decidedly strange format that, rather than being revolutionary, simply look like the developers forgot to finish the rest of the game in the 3D designer. The obstacles and the backgrounds are also not much to talk about, being of the normal fare and, shockingly, at times even looking like clipart.

The audio does a much better job, fitting in well with the gameplay itself and quickening or slackening depending on the situations. The inclusion of a playlist and the song titles in the lower corners is also a nice touch, giving less of a sense of immersion but more of a fun indication that this was a game first and simulation second. It almost felt like playing a personal playlist rather than the background music of the game.

It may not seem like much, but this was the moment I threw my keyboard against the wall.

It may not seem like much, but this was the moment I threw my keyboard against the wall.

However, what we truly should talk about is the gameplay. What I have to say is this - no, this is not a contrived attempt at nostalgia, but instead it innovates in a way that developers have rarely thought of before. Many platformers innovate in different ways, but adding in a density of obstacles is frowned upon nowadays due to the lack of patience in gamers in repeating stages over and over again. It is shocking then, that Cloudberry Kingdom not only ramps the density of obstacles, and thus difficulty, up to eleven, but also repeats them over and over again upon failure.

What is it that allows Cloudberry Kingdom to commit this most fatal of sins? It is simple - a fast respawn time, a continuous momentum and a lack of stoppages. Immediately, upon death, one blinks back to the start of the level and can begin to move with absolutely no impediment whatsoever, ready for another jump into the ravine of death. This, added with the fact that levels last no longer than a minute or two at most, result in lightning-fast gameplay that keeps you at the edge of your seat, and difficulty that even the most jaded gamer can appreciate. It knows what it wants to do, which is punish those who dare to attempt it, but does so in such a way that does not induce game-quitting rage.

See the demo of the main character jumping effortlessly through the level? LIES!

See the demo of the main character jumping effortlessly through the level? LIES!

That is not to say that the game is simply good for the sake of one such facet. It also provides a substantial variety of game modes, in the form of different abilities the main character can possess at a given level - ranging from jetpacks that allow you to traverse large portions without landing, if you can control the fickle thing, to hamster wheels that are absolutely hilarious to control. The game is chock full of content, and features a difficulty curve that is surprisingly progressive. In fact, most of this game came as a surprise - I fully intended to be rage-quitting by the sixth level, yet found myself entranced by the experience such that I was reluctant to stop even at the thirtieth. However, I had to, because I realized I had attempted the same portion at least fifty times in a row without stopping, and was beginning to go insane - a testament to how well the game disguises its difficulty.

The Verdict

Ultimately then, what is amazing about this game is that it has perfected its Stockholm Syndrome techniques, such that it can snare gamers and keep them playing despite its insane difficulty. Thus, it has taken a step further even than the golden classics of our past - it has made losing the game not be as frustrating as before, but rather made it nearly imperceptible. It is a shame about the graphics and art design, but as an indie game, some leeway can be given - with a better amount of backing and perhaps more talent, it could have been pretty much perfect. As it stands however, the art is by no means ugly, reaching an average standard, and the gameplay is truly out of this world. Altogether, I daresay that this is one of the top few indie games I have played this year, in that it has absolutely achieved what it has set out to do - be insanely difficult, yet insanely fun.

Case Review

  • Nostalgia Trip: This does indeed bring me back to the old days. You know, the PTSD of Ninja Gaiden.
  • Innovative Gameplay: They could have made a normal platformer, but they took it a step further.
  • Cartoonish: Again, some people seem to really dig this style, while others hate it.
  • This is a Game: Next to no immersion, a decision made consciously - some may appreciate it, others not.
  • Lackluster Art: Nothing amazing, nothing worth writing home about.
4.5
Score: 4.5/5
Cloudberry Kingdom is something that you don’t expect to be a good but instead turns out to be amazing.
Comments (4)
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Posts: 1499

Nothing, just saying...

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Posts: 2679

What's your point?

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Posts: 1499

Bob, you want all the games...more or less :P

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Posts: 2679

I actually...kinda' regret not taking this now XD