After a bumpy ride to release that has seen Cloudberry Kingdom come from fairly humble beginnings to being a key player in the digital strategy of one of the biggest videogame publishers in the world, the platform challenge is now with us. And challenging it is, as being ‘just another’ platform title wouldn’t necessarily warrant significant investment either from Ubisoft or from you as they player. Thankfully, Cloudberry Kingdom proves itself worthy as you battle against your eyelids at 4am trying to complete a level you’ve been struggling with for nearly an hour.
Despite a plentiful supply of gameplay modes, Cloudberry Kingdom throws you right into the action without a moment’s thought. There is no easy introduction or tutorial mode: Cloudberry Kingdom is a videogame made for core gamers, and core gamers already know all the conventions of a platform videogame. From bouncy blocks to fireballs to enemies floating in a ladder-like pattern, all of these items can be interpreted on sight by any gamer worth their salt, and Cloudberry Kingdom uses these conventions to it’s advantage at every given opportunity.
The Arcade mode is given the most prominent placement on the menu, presumably thanks to its seemingly endless supply of options for tailoring. Players can begin a simple level series, attempting to progress as far as they can with a set number of lives, or mix things up a bit by adding additional rules such as a jetpack, strapped to a giant wheel or spring-mounted wooden steed.
The core action of Cloudberry Kingdom, as with the vast majority of platform videogames, sees the player (or players, as all gameplay modes in Cloudberry Kingdom allow for up to four players simultaneously) running from left to right, jumping to avoid the many obstacles they are presented with. The levels are relatively small, with checkpoints presented in the time that a Super Mario World level takes to get started. But Cloudberry Kingdom isn’t the same type of platform challenge as a Super Mario videogame; instead it favours the Super Meat Boy style of challenge over longevity.
There’s plenty of content on Cloudberry Kingdom, that’s not in question at all, what is proposed however is literally hundreds of bite-sized levels lasting only second in the right hands. Players can collect gems along the way in the hope of achieving a perfect score but it’s not necessary. There’s no time limit and, in the Story Mode at least, the player(s) have infinite lives. The only thing pushing the player forward is their own momentum: the slick, familiar control of their on-screen avatar and the desire to best any challenge that the videogame puts before them.
The visual quality of Cloudberry Kingdom is of a very high standard, with its simple presentation belying the difficulty of the dexterity challenges within. The players have the option to customise their avatar with all manner of facial hair, hats and capes, designed specifically for comic effect. The cutscenes progress the story in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, delivered through a small amount of 3D papercraft shorts. Cloudberry Kingdom isn’t exactly as deep in its technical design as it is in its gameplay, but this is entirely the point. Cloudberry Kingdom is a videogame made for playing, not for watching.
Available as a digital title for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC, Cloudberry Kingdom is casting its net far and wide. Across this spread it’s certain to find an audience that respects the achievement made, as while Cloudberry Kingdom doesn’t break the mould it’s a hugely enjoyable, hugely taxing platform videogame. Many titles are said to be demanding of players in a ‘one more go’ fashion but so few remain true to this ethos after hours with very little progress: Cloudberry Kingdom honours this sentiment, and runs home with the investment the player makes in each new level.