Let’s get CRAZY!!
The Super Mario and Mega Man series have been known for their immense difficulty, great music, and levels that can be attempted over and over again until you’ve perfectly mastered the right time to jump, crouch, fly, etc. However, developer Pwnee Studios and Publisher Ubisoft have delivered a little game that pushes those ideologies to the limit. Cloudberry Kingdom, which arrived on the Wii U eShop on August 1, may sound like a cutesy Mario-esque wannabe but deep inside lies the evil, masochistic, and unforgiving challenge of one of the most hardcore platformers you’ll ever play.
Cloudberry Kingdom’s story mode opens with a cheesy cut scene displayed wonderfully in papery origami-like stop motion animation. The evil king Kobbler has kidnapped the beautiful mermaid princess (sound familiar?) and the lazy, somewhat chubby semi-retired hero named Bob, who wears green, has a head shaped like a golf ball, and sports a major five o’clock shadow has come to save the day. Kevin Sorbo from the Hercules TV series voices Bob and brings a cheesy yet somewhat commanding presence to the hero, while the king and princess also sound cheesy, and to sum it up the voice acting is horrendous.
Each level has Bob dodging lasers and navigating blocks (that sometimes have spikes moving in and out on all sides). Hazards include: disappearing “ghost blocks”; swinging evil faced rocks that resemble Thwomps from the Mario series; fire ropes (Mario related); bouncy blocks and more. There is just one simple button to push and that is—jump! Each level increases in difficulty as you go, as more lasers are added, saws move back and forth ready to slice you, spiked balls roll in groups in front of and behind you up and down the screen, and things get even more frustrating. At each ten-level mark Bob receives a new power up such as a double jump in the form of wings on Bob’s back or a jetpack to help him rise up and over falling blocks and swinging spiked blocks. The story mode comprises about 100 levels in total, spread out over seven chapters.
The heart of Cloudberry’s challenge is the game’s A.I. that sadistic developer Pwnee have created, which allows the game to generate a totally new and challenging level every time you play. So you can forget about running through each level repeatedly practicing to time your jumps, dodges, etc. because that will not happen here. Cloudberry Kingdom’s graphics are cute, cartoony, and well drawn and resemble those found in Kongregate’s Alien Hominid. Each level is backed up with various upbeat techno sounding tunes that will either help you generate your own type of rhythm while you play or will be so annoying that it will throw you off more than the game’s obstacles.
The game also has an Arcade mode with a Time Crisis campaign, Escalation, and Hero Rush. In Escalation you are given 15 lives, a short level to traverse, and one of several “suits” Bob is awarded with to use in that level. From there you move forward, going from level to level until your lives run out and then your score is placed on a local leader board.
Time Crisis campaign gives you 15 seconds to finish a level, gems to collect to increase time, and if you finish in less than two seconds then an additional two seconds is added to the clock to help you finish the level. An added bonus is that you\’re given limitless lives so you can gratuitously die over and over again and come back to relive the horror like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day.
Then there is Hero Rush, which pretty much assigns you which “hero” you will be using in each level, which can be very frustrating if you have not used that suit or “hero” before. Such “hero” suits are Fat Bob, Morphing Bob, Spaceship Bob (which makes you appear as a side scrolling space shooter ship), Wheelie Bob, Bob attached to a carousel horse, Bob in a box, and more. The Wheelie Bob can be very frustrating because most players will want to speed through the level like it’s straight out of Bit Trip Runner but you will have to move slowly and gracefully to survive.
The co-op mode, which allows up to five players, is a little more fun where you can customize Bob using disguises like a handlebar moustache, brain head, big afro, and other silly add-ons. The nice thing about having up to five players on screen is that you do not have to worry about jumping off one player’s head and knocking the other into the lava to his doom like in many New Super Mario Bros. games.
There is also a customization mode where you can limit the amount of baddies you want to have appear in the game, set the distance for Bob’s leap, shorten levels, slow things down, and you can choose which kind of stage or background you would like to play through.
Cloudberry Kingdom is a nice little game hearkening back to the good old days of Super Mario and Mega Man style game play. The music is upbeat and adds to the frenzied style of taking on each new and difficult level. Some players will pick this game up, play a little, give up and never come back. On the other end of the spectrum, however, the \”hit me with your best shot\” type of gamer will find plenty to keep them satisfied in between the occasional rage-quit. Overall, I would suggest giving this diamond in the rough a try but be careful because its dangerous, masochistic lure might have you coming back for more.