Cloudberry Kingdom wants your head on a plate. It boasts unlimited levels and some of the hardest platforming you can find. With this comes a love/hate relationship, the game clearly hates you, but you can’t help but love it for its brilliance and charm.
You play as Bob. Bob is middle-aged, sports a five o’clock shadow, and looks grumpy. Bob is grumpy because the princess has been kidnapped yet again after twenty years of constantly having to saving her.
I guess you could say Mario has a lot more patience than Bob has. The story is played out through short animated cutscenes, which aren’t necessary, but Pwnee needed Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame to do something right?
Story mode is where most people will start, and it works well. The game plays a quick cutscene, and it’s quickly apparent that the game does not take itself too seriously. Kevin Sorbo, Sam Sorbo (also from Hercules) and Martin Olson (Adventure Time) do a great job of playing the tired old story of the princess being kidnapped by an evil king, with Bob having to save the day once again.
The levels in story mode start out rather tame, allowing you to witness the types of hurdles you will be facing in the next 300+ levels without making it impossible to navigate. There will be spikes, buzzsaws, creatures, disappearing platforms and more stopping Bob from reaching the door at the end of the level.
No matter how many obstacles Cloudberry Kingdom throws at you though, it never seems to anger you like many other games would. Every ten levels changes up Bob’s ability, he may have a jetpack for a set of ten levels, the next he might be trapped inside a box he can’t walk in. It’s a great way to change up the gameplay and keep it from being boring.
Cloudberry Kingdom also comes with an Arcade mode. Escalation is the starting point, and is the standard game of getting as far as you can with limited lives. Time Crisis has you competing against the clock, collecting coins to keep the timer away from zero. Hero Rush gives you a different handicap for every level while you compete against the clock. And finally Hybrid Rush gives you multiple handicaps for each level, again competing against the clock, and is definitely not for the faint of heart!
Freeplay is where the meat of the game lies, however. It is here that you can customise the game to basically be whatever you want it to be. Here you can unlock Hero types to play as in a generated level, be it Tiny Bob, Phase Bob (growing and shrinking rapidly), Gravity Bob amongst many more. You can also set what kind of level you’d like to play, by setting the difficulty, length, number of checkpoints, how many enemies and traps you’d like to see, and even difficulty of jumping platform to platform.
After plugging in all your preferred settings, the game thinks for a brief moment and you get a randomly generated level based upon your requirements. If you particularly like the stage you’re given, you can save it to play later.
The game also has cooperative play available for all modes. It’s incredibly fun for the most part, as jumping on a sinking platform before your friend can reach there can feel satisfying, as can making it to the end of the level together. The game doesn’t punish you for leaving your friend behind, so technically a more experienced player can carry their less experienced friend through the whole game if they desired.
Just for laughs, there is a bungee mode incorporated into freeplay, where two to four players are attached by a cord, it’s fun for one player to fall down a pit, only to be dragged by their mates across the rest of the level. Whomever makes it to the door first is saved the indignity of exploding for no apparent reason other than explosions that make no sense are funny.
Throughout all of these different modes, one thing is clear. Pwnee do an awesome job of conveying that ‘one more go’ style of gameplay. Each level can theoretically be beaten in less than 30 seconds, not counting deaths. This, coupled with no penalty for deaths, turns what could have been a downright punishing game into one that makes you laugh every time Bob explodes. Even better is the inclusion of a replay system that shows every single Bob you killed running alongside your winning Bob, seeing yourself die at the same point 30 times all at once is a pleasure onto itself.
There are also powerups available, you can purchase an AI who can show you that the level you’re stuck on is beatable, by beating it in front of you. You can also purchase a dotted line that shows the best path to take, with a ball moving along the line for you to try and stay with. Finally you can purchase a clock to slow down time, making it easier to navigate obstacles in your path. This inclusion can help people who may be having trouble in any of these modes, and is a godsend for Story Mode.
The music drowns out just about all the sound effects in the game, so turning it down is a good suggestion, as many sound effects (especially the jumping sound) are incredibly hard to hear. The music is a mix of different techno styles, and while some tracks are generic, others are incredibly catchy and hum worthy.
Online leaderboards are standard fare, and there are some pretty insane scores up there already. Bob can also be customised, from having a viking helmet with a giant curly moustache, to having a flaming head with a ninja coloured outfit.
Cloudberry Kingdom looks very simple, but hidden under its deceivious, mischiefous surface lies a deep platforming experience that has never really been done before.
Cloudberry Kingdom reminded me why I enjoyed video games in the first place. It’s fast paced, it’s insane 90% of the time, it’s charming, it has Kevin Sorbo. If you even remotely enjoy platformers, get it. If you have friends and more than one controller, get it. One of the most fun experiences I’ve had in 2013.