Not ‘Berry’ Nice
As fans of video games we’ve all experienced bucket loads of different attempts at the platformer. In fact if you’re over the age of 25 you will probably recall that platformers dominated the 8 and 16 bit console games market for years. Most gamers have been overloaded with this genre and it’s for this reason that these days only a select few have any real success.
The developers of Cloudberry Kingdom have taken a big risk in releasing a game of this type considering they have to compete with giants like Mario and Sonic along with the perfectly executed Super Meat Boy.
The main selling point of CBK is that it’s levels are essentially randomly generated. Through what I assume is a very clever spot of programming, each level contains randomly placed platforms, traps, enemies and pickups and like all games of this type your aim is to move from left to right and of course to collect all the things.
As a concept this is a great idea: levels that never (or hardly ever) repeat themselves present an opportunity for an ever changing game experience which in turn will significantly increase replayability of the title. And for some gamers this could be enough. But not for this gamer.
When watching the intro sequence I was charmed by the visuals in Cloudberry. Presented in a clever stop motion paper model style my hopes immediately went up as these looked fantastic in every way. Unfortunately when I stepped into the actual gameplay I found 2D spirites, basic animations and bland textures which were a far cry away from the beauty witnessed seconds earlier. Getting 10 or 20 levels into the piece the repetition of the visuals is just mind numbing and disappointing.
Plenty of titles have explored the possibility of finding beauty in simplicity such as the aforementioned Super Meat Boy, Fez and even Yoshi’s Island on the SNES. These titles and so many others have simply nailed it. Cloudberry Kingdom has certainly got the simplicity aspect right but fails dismally on the beauty part.
More important than the visuals, the game has also failed to impress in regards to the way it feels. Above all things any good platformer needs to be capable of lightning fast adjustments from the controller as well as a good sense of momentum. (I’m also talking to you Sonic 4 episode 1 and beyond).
I found the controls in CBK to be a bit sluggish and the lack of a run button was not only frustrating but also seemed to be a waste of potential for puzzle solving. The player seemed to move just a tad too slowly for my liking and while releasing the thumbstick wouldn’t have the player stop instantly, the momentum seemed to be lacking just enough for me to repeatedly fall short of my target.
On the upside the level design ranges from normal to completely bloody ridiculous and playing through the story mode has you experiencing a very gradual increase in difficulty to the point where you almost don’t realise it till things get just too difficult to the point of near impossibility. There’s also a few different game modes which can be fun for a short time. Especially if you’re the type to have to get the best possible time and collect absolutely everything.
The movement of the various traps and obstacles relative to the player is bang on perfect. In some instances you Suddenly find yourself at the end of the level and wondering how the hell you pulled it off. This may seem contradictory to my earlier comments on the control system but I stand by my opinion that there needs to be a run button.
Completing the extra difficult levels will leave you with a good sense of accomplishment but this is unfortunately overshadowed by constant frustration as you fall to your 156th death. This lack of balance between fun and frustration takes away any desire to jump back in to the game after your first session.
Cloudberry Kingdom was certainly a good stab at the platforming genre and maybe if a little more QA was applied it could have been tweaked to be an excellent title deserving of a position up there with the greats. But the areas where it falls short are likely to leave it lost and forgotten by the end of August.
It’s not a terrible game but when compared to the high quality of similar titles already available you would be best to spend your money elsewhere.
Developer: Pwnee Studios
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC, MAC OSX, PS Vita & Wii U