Review: Cloudberry Kingdom
Don’t let the charming title of this game fool you, Cloudberry Kingdom is no pushover. It all looks sunshine and rainbows, but beneath the fluffy exterior lies a plethora of procedural platforming punishment.
Cloudberry Kingdom’s main selling point is it’s procedurally generated levels. “But what does that mean?” I hear you ask. Well, Pwnee Studios have developed a clever little program that will create endless amounts of levels for you, based on your current character and difficulty level. As you progress, levels will get more complex, and the level creator is as fiendish as it is clever. Every level can be beaten too, no matter how impossible it might seem.
You’ll start off easy enough, hopping along simple platforms, grabbing score gems and trollying to each levels exit with ease. Moving forwards, you’ll start dealing with blocks that fall from under you, bouncy blocks that have to be hit perfectly, swinging spiked balls, firey spinners, squishy flies to jump off and even lasers. It’s all bright and colourful though, so as evil as the levels might play, they do look like a happy place to be.
You won’t just be running and jumping through these levels, you’ll also unlock many different characters to use as you play. One has a jetpack, one can double jump. There’s a fat one and a tiny one, with their own physics. You’ve got one strapped to a giant wheel, and there’s one sitting in a cardboard box who can only move by jumping. The variation on show is impressive, and just when you think you’ve got one character nailed, you’ll unlock a new one to fail repeatedly with!
It’s not all free form action though, there’s a full story mode included. There’s a loose plot about an evil king, stealing a princess, and using a magic orb to craft ever more tricky challenges. The actual plot is thin as dishwater, but the cutscenes are presented in a delightful, stop motion fashion.
The story levels provide a superb training ground, and you’ll really start to sharpen your skills as you power through. You can retry story levels as much as you want, and thankfully most of them have checkpoints. You’ll mix up the character you use too, keeping the story mode fresh. There are a few difficulty spikes, but getting past them has a satisfaction pay-off you’ll not see often.
Arcade mode is where the real meat and potatoes of the game lives. Cloudberry Kingdom has been styled as a competitive platformer, with an emphasis on high scores and leaderboards, and Escalation mode is where you’ll find the meat of this. You’ll dash through random levels, getting tougher and tougher as you go. You’ll get a new life every 25 gems, and you’ll keep going until you run out of lives. Doing well in this mode will unlock new modes and characters within the Arcade, and there’s always high scores to chase.
Other modes within the Arcade are just as fun, if a little harder. Time Crisis gives you tiny levels, no bigger than a screen, but an ever ticking countdown until a game over. Grabbing gems adds a couple of seconds to this time, and failure will cost valuable seconds. Hero Rush is similar to this, but you’ll change character at each new level, rewarding mastery of the whole cast. Hybrid Rush is the toughest of the lot, giving you random mixes of the characters, such as a fat guy with a jetpack, or a double jumping guy strapped to a wheel. It’s highly confusing, frantic, tough as nails, but hilarious fun.
If all this endless challenge isn’t enough, you can even play in multiplayer too! Up to four players can run, jump and fail miserably at any of the game modes. As long as one player makes it to the end, you won’t lose any lives, which is a nice touch. It allows novices to play along with pros easily, and without penalty.
The Bungee mode needs special mention here, a special, multiplayer only option. Your characters are tied together with elastic, so you must work together to reach the goal. If a player dies, they will need to be dragged to the end, weighing the party down. It’s bonkers, hilarious, and the source of hours of well natured bickering.
If the preselected options don’t float your boat, you can even modify the physics of the characters, and the composition of the levels. The Hero Factory allows you to create entirely custom setups, altering the size, gravity, speed and power of your hero, and the level maker will then craft levels based around those parameters. It’s clever stuff, and prevents you from making a character too broken.
The custom level maker also lets you adjust almost every parameter possible. You can alter the length of levels, the difficulty and even the checkpoints. You can also do a deep dive into the sliders, and mess with the numbers of individual hazards, so if you want to try an all bouncy block level, you can. If you make a level you like, you can save the code and go back to it whenever you like, and share it with your friends.
One of the title’s only real issues is the lack of identity the levels exhibit. Because each level is procedurally generated, you never feel like you’re beating some devious programmers design. It’s more like travelling through a series of computer designed test rooms, much like Portal or Thomas Was Alone, but this time they are actually designed by a computer. The level maker does a fantastic job of providing new, varied levels, but they always feel a bit prefabby.
Cloudberry Kingdom provides bags of value, with near endless challenges to assault. At times, it can be painfully, frustratingly difficult, but that’s the whole point. The high scores table will taunt you, but persevering will always yield improvements. You’ll learn how to read the levels, and know how to approach them before ever making the first step. If you’ve got a taste for white knuckle, tough-as-nails platformers, you can’t go too far wrong with Cloudberry Kingdom.