Bragging rights are an interesting aspect of the video game community. Saying that you’ve beaten a game, or a difficult level, or even a wily boss, comes with an inherent sense of self-satisfaction, but also the right to brag about your accomplishments. But, what if you were bragging about something in a game that someone else would never see, or play, or experience. In fact, what if the entire game was a unique experience because each of the levels were randomly generated? Enter Kickstarter success story, “Cloudberry Kingdom,” the 2D platformer from developer Pwnee Studios, that prides itself on being completely randomly generated, meaning my experience will not be the same as yours, should you decide to play it.
“Cloudberry Kingdom” follows the time-honored tale of a kidnapped princess and the man who sets out to save her. This time around, Bob (voiced by Kevin Sorbo), a veteran vigilante, comes out of retirement for one last adventure. The evil Kobbler plays the role of the villain, as he has taken a mystical Orb (and the Princess) with the hope of wielding its power to take over the kingdom. The story really isn’t the interesting part, as it’s told through shaky cutscenes, in-between giant chunks of levels. The really interesting parts of “Cloudberry Kingdom” are the levels themselves, as the game puts a more intense focus on gameplay instead of the story.
Saying that the levels in “Cloudberry Kingdom” are all different would be an understatement, since they are literally all different. Since every board is randomly generated, every time someone plays “Cloudberry Kingdom” it will be an entirely unique experience. Bob will run, jump, roll, jet-pack, and bounce (among other things) his way through millions of different levels, testing gamers’ most basic skills, jumping and landing safely, across a series of different platforms, while avoiding enemies, traps, and pitfalls. It’s like “Super Mario Bros.” on speed, with a touch of “Canabalt”’s ingenuity.
Layered on top of the gameplay are tight controls, which are completely necessary, as the levels can be quite punishing. As Bob progresses through the story, certain levels will impose certain gameplay tweaks, forcing the player to adapt to double jumping, or having a jet-pack strapped to your back, or being tied to a giant wheel, and each of these tweaks comes with new physics, all of which are easy to pick right up. Even if you need a little time adjusting lives don’t really matter in story mode, and you can keep trying to beat each level with brute force until you emerge triumphantly.
Outside of the story, “Cloudberry Kingdom” also offers a couple of different modes for players to test their skills. Time Crises, Hero Rush, and Escalation put certain constraints on the player, and see just how many levels they can endure before time runs out, or insanity sets in. The variety helps mix up the overall goals, while the gameplay itself remains the same. These modes also help to best demonstrate the game’s multiplayer mode (which is also including in the story mode), as it allows for teams of up to four players to go at these levels together – in some cases tethered together.
There’s something to be said about a good 2D platformer game, and, at its core, “Cloudberry Kingdom” is pretty good. All of the standards are covered: tight controls, level variations, power-ups, and enemies. There is one thing that the game is missing: heart. The reason people commit so much time to any game, is because they connect with it on some level, and because platformers are so basic, that level is usually with the characters. Bob is a pretty flat character. Sure, you can customize him, but, really, there isn’t a lot of depth to him, or to his story. Couple that with the randomly generated levels, and “Cloudberry Kingdom” becomes more of a training exercise than anything else. It’s shared experiences that bring people together, and outside of playing the game, there’s no way for players to bond over aspects of the game – no bragging rights.
If you’re looking for a fundamentally sound, challenging platformer, with an infinite amount of gameplay, then “Cloudberry Kingdom” is a great way to spend your time. If you want to test your skills, or prepare for some kind of Platformer Olympics, then you need to play “Cloudberry Kingdom.” However, if you need more… some kind of emotional connection to your games to keep you going, you’re not likely going to find it in “Cloudberry Kingdom.”