Cloudberry Kingdom, the debut effort from Pwnee Studios, isn’t like most platformers. Inspired by the limitless difficulty of Tetris and the procedural dungeons of games like Diablo, it features an infinite supply of stages to clear, which get progressively more challenging thanks to a complex AI that generates them on the fly. This gives Cloudberry Kingdom a unique hook that helps set it apart in such a crowded genre, but a few notable flaws keep it from achieving the same status as its inspirations.
Despite its interesting premise, Cloudberry Kingdom doesn’t exactly make the best first impression thanks to visuals that are ugly by any standard. On the surface, it looks like any of the myriad free Flash games you can find on the Internet, with stiff animations and a generic protagonist (named, appropriately enough, Bob) serving as your avatar.
"...Cloudberry Kingdom doesn’t exactly make the best first impression thanks to visuals that are ugly by any standard."
Fortunately, Cloudberry Kingdom’s gameplay more than makes up for its presentation. Unlike most other platformers, the stages in Cloudberry Kingdom are randomly generated by the game’s unique “level generation algorithm,” which produces stages based on adjustable parameters that range from physics to the number of traps present in a level. What’s particularly impressive about this feature is how satisfying the stages feel; each level in Cloudberry Kingdom, even on the highest difficulty, can be cleared with enough persistence and finesse, making the game a rewarding experience. Plus, through a gem-collection mechanic, you can unlock hint movies that demonstrate how to best maneuver past a particularly hairy obstacle, giving players a nudge in the right direction whenever they hit an impasse.
"...each level in Cloudberry Kingdom, even on the highest difficulty, can be cleared with enough persistence and finesse..."
The game itself is divided up into several different gameplay modes. The crux of Cloudberry Kingdom is the Arcade, which features a handful of score attack games to test your skills. These range from the addictive Escalation, which has you jumping through an infinite series of stages until you run out of lives, to Time Crisis, which challenges you to clear as many stages as possible within the allotted time. Each game is satisfying in its own way, thanks to the tight controls and randomized challenges. The brevity of the levels gives Cloudberry Kingdom that “just one more try” feel that makes it hard put down, even when the difficulty becomes overwhelming.
Not all of the game’s modes are a success, however. The story mode in particular grows monotonous fairly quickly. Like the Arcade, each level you traverse is randomly generated, and the game imposes a new restriction on you--like clearing a stage on a pogo stick or in a mine cart, for instance--every few levels in an effort to keep the experience unpredictable. Unfortunately, the lack of variety in the backdrops means that, aside from an increase in difficulty, the quest offers no real sense of progression. Stages quickly become repetitive thanks to the reused scenery and restrictions, and the thin narrative that ties them all together is limited to a handful of brief cutscenes that bookend each chapter, offering very little incentive to see the mode through to the end.
"Stages quickly become repetitive thanks to the reused scenery and restrictions..."
With a better art style and a stronger story mode, Cloudberry Kingdom could've been an instant must-have for all platforming fans; as it stands, the game is still an addictive experience despite its flaws. The randomly generated levels are consistently fun, offering a substantial challenge without ever becoming overly frustrating, and the game’s Arcade mode features plenty of satisfying gameplay options for players of all skill levels to enjoy. If you like testing the limits of your platforming skills, Cloudberry Kingdom will make a fine addition to your downloadable collection.
This game was reviewed on PS3.
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