Cloudberry Kingdom is an exhilarating platformer you shouldn’t miss.
For decades, the main protagonists of platformers have had one single motivation: to rescue a damsel in distress from an evil antagonist. Donkey Kong, Final Fight, The Legend of Zelda and Super Meat Boy are but a few examples of games that encourage players to fulfill this noble (if not utterly sexist) endeavor. But not Cloudberry Kingdom. Although the evil antagonist kidnaps a princess, the main protagonist couldn’t care less about what happens to her. Instead, he simply wants to explore some extremely difficult levels, collect coins and overcome a series of challenges.
For the uninitiated, Cloudberry Kingdom is a 2D platformer whose main draw is the possibility of playing procedurally generated levels. This means that the artificial intelligence builds new levels each time you play the game, so no two playthroughs are alike. Interestingly, the code that creates the levels also has the ability to match any difficulty and to demonstrate that the levels are actually possible, you can always summon an AI-controlled hero to show you how it’s done.
But while the levels can change, the core gameplay is always the same. Cloudberry Kingdom relies heavily on repetition, muscle memory and pattern recognition, so to get to the door at the end of each level, you need to carefully study you surroundings and usually, die over and over again. Cloudberry Kingdom has an ebb and flow to it that you need to master in each level and this process is so engrossing that once you’re on your way, it’s hard to stop playing. The different platforms, enemies and obstacles move in a specific pattern and you need to study that pattern to succeed. If you make a mistake, you’ll probably die, but since it takes less than a second for the main character to reappear, retrying levels is a frustration-free process.
Although comparisons to platformers such as Super Mario Bros. and Super Meat Boy can easily be drawn, Cloudberry Kingdom has some unique elements that make it stand out from other platformers, such as the unique level design and customizable heroes, among others. One of those unique qualities is the jumping mechanic. Jumping has a floaty feel to it that sets it apart from other platformers. That said, jumping isn’t bad, it’s simply different and while it should take you a few minutes to get used to it, you never get the feeling that you’re replaying levels due to imprecise controls.
So the core of the game might remain the same (collect as many coins as you can and reach the door at the end of the level,) but the way in which you get to that objective is always changing. As you make progress, more obstacles start coming into play, such as spiked balls, bugs that give you an impulse when you jump over them and so on and so forth. But not only do the environments and objects around you change, the character you control also suffers some changes. Apart from the some customizable options, the main character obtains new suits, such as an unstoppable wheel costume, a jet pack and even a cardboard box. Thankfully, the levels are tailored according to the suit the hero is wearing, so the game never gives you something you can’t handle.
Should you get stuck in a level, the game offers three power ups you can purchase using the coins you’ve collected. The first power up shows the AI playing the level flawlessly. The second power up is a sort of visual aid that shows you the correct patch you should follow. Finally, the last power up activates slow motion, making the process of dodging enemies and jumping simpler.
Overall, there are three main modes. In infinite arcade mode, you play a random tier of levels. As you make progress, your player level increases and the higher the level, the more heroes and levels you have access to. In arcade mode, there are four tier of levels (Escalation, Time Crisis, Hero Rush and Hybrid Rush) and naturally, they become increasingly difficult as you advance. The second mode is called story. Here, you make progress in linear fashion and when you complete each of the seven chapters, you watch a cutscene. Finally, free play let’s you play levels using very specific parameters. You can choose the location, type of level, difficulty, number of checkpoints and how the AI will behave, among many other options you can set.
Additionally, there are some multiplayer modes that can be played with friends. Up to four players can participate in local multiplayer and while it’s a shame that this mode in particular can’t be played online, having some people over to yell at them for committing mistakes is eminently satisfying. There’s also some cooperative modes and without a doubt, one of the most inventive ones is called bungee mode, a mode in which players have a bungee cord attached to them, so they must collaborate to reach the end of the level.
Sadly, Cloudberry Kingdom isn’t without some issues. Although the FMV sequences look creative, the rest of the game doesn’t look that good. In fact, Cloudberry Kingdom resembles a simplistic flash game you can play online. Another issue is that there’s a small delay when a new song starts playing. Dying as a consequence of this delay can be infuriating, but it’s worth pointing out that this particular problem wasn’t a common occurrence during the review process.
In conclusion, Cloudberry Kingdom is a pleasant platformer that will keep you engaged for hours. The high difficulty might be intimidating, but the tight controls, breakneck action and engrossing level design make the learning curve worth climbing. Cloudberry Kingdom is an exhilarating platformer you shouldn’t miss.