Of all of Ubisoft’s forthcoming digital releases for console, Cloudberry Kingdom offers what is arguably the most traditional gameplay experience. When acknowledging the fact that it sits next to two first-person shooters and a remake of a popular ‘90s title, this is quite a bold statement, but it’s proven by the consideration that the entire of Cloudberry Kingdom is a tasting sampler of more complicated platform videogames.
Running and jumping, you quickly discover, is the limit of your abilities in the earliest stages of the videogame. With just these two commands and merely a few inches of terrain to traverse Cloudberry Kingdom manages to throw some incredible challenges at you. Leaping from platform to platform, over fireballs and axes, moving platforms and bouncing blocks, the ultimate goal is to reach a door at the end before beginning all over again. The closest comparison many will offer is that of Super Meat Boy and while in essence the try-and-die gameplay exists in both, Cloudberry Kingdom feels much fairer. Its challenges are much less complicated, but no less demanding.
Each level contains a number of gems to collect en route from A-to-B, and collecting them all will grant you a perfect score. This is made easier on Cloudberry Kingdom’s two-player mode, wherein both players take to the screen simultaneously and attempt to make it across as a couple. If one player dies it’s no big loss, but if both die it’s back to the start. A simple addition to the formula then, and yet Cloudberry Kingdom is still at its best when played with a friend of a similar skill level.
After a short series of levels a new ability will be introduced; first the double jump, then the rocketpack. Both of these additions are incorporated into the gameplay perfectly, consistently challenging yet never unfair. Cloudberry Kingdom’s ethos is encourage players to struggle on, not punish the, for failure. This is also felt on the other gameplay mode Electronic Theatre sampled: Arcade.
After customising your avatar from unlocked components – with some truly bizarre combinations available – players can also customise the gameplay to a significant degree. As if asking for punishment, Electronic Theatre opted to be riding plastic horses that moved solely by bouncing upon a spring. Simple jumps now become a complicated timing affair, and yet Cloudberry Kingdom loses none of its addictive quality, compelling you to play just one more level. And then one more. And maybe one more after that.
The art style of Cloudberry Kingdom is welcomingly plain, with bold flat colours and simple animation creating a world which doesn’t pull focus from the gameplay within it. The cutscenes however, are delivered through a unique papercraft art style. One has to wonder just how much Family Guy the development team has watched, as there’s certainly more than a simple nod and wink in Seth MacFarlane’s direction in even the one sequence witnessed by Electronic Theatre. Of course this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for if there were to be any type of videogame that would benefit from a splash of humour it would most certainly be that in which you die more frequently than succeed.