The Wii U game you could be playing right now.
If Mario decided to make babies with Super Meat Boy (please don’t picture that in your head), you’d get a wonderful game called Cloudberry Kingdom, a game headed for Steam and XBLA AND likely at launch on the Wii U digital store. And I’ve played it! Well, I’ve played the Steam version at least, and if I’m not mistaken the Steam version will be very close if not identical to both the Wii U and the XBLA versions. So let’s get on with some impressions!
It’s difficult to understand what Cloudberry Kingdom is like just by watching the trailer. I’ll be honest, I thought I would hate the game, seeing all that crazy stuff I’d have to go through in order to survive. But Cloudberry Kingdom is a totally different game, something that you probably wouldn’t expect.
I guess the best way to describe Cloudberry Kingdom is that it’s a Mario-like WarioWare game. The stages are really short, most of which can be completed within 5 seconds. Each level is randomly generated too, giving it that extra “luck of the draw” element to it; sometimes, I’d encounter a level that I absolutely cannot find a way to beat. But that’s the gist of Cloudberry Kingdom: short, randomly generated 2D platforming fun.
Cloudberry Kingdom features Campaign Mode, Arcade Mode (in it 5 other different modes) and Free Play Mode, all of which can support up to 4 players simultaneously. In the demo that I tested, I was only able to access the Arcade Mode and the Free Play Mode, both only in single-player. I assume the Campaign Mode will feature a solid storyline that will serve as the basis of the game. Arcade Mode is separated into 5 different categories: Time Rush, Hero Mode, Hero Mode 2, Escalate, and Hero Factory. I’ll explain each mode below, along with my thoughts on each.
Time Rush is basically an arcade speed-run in which players try to finish as many stages as they can before time runs out. Along the way, they can collect “coins” (which, to be honest, look like gems) to gain time. This is very WarioWare-esque, which I like very much. It’s the kind of thing that keeps your heart pumping every time you complete a level. Very cool.
Hero Mode is similar to Time Rush, but each level gives players a random power-up, like making them smaller or giving them a jet pack. This mode adds a hint of randomness to the game, though I don’t really think it was all that necessary, considering the stages are all randomly generated anyways. But still, it’s a nice touch.
Hero Mode 2 is the same thing as Hero Mode, but instead of just one power-up, players can get up to three per level. And honestly, I could care less about this mode. Sure, more randomness is fun, but we really didn’t need this. Not saying it’s bad, just unnecessary.
Escalate focuses on “survival” more than “speed”, with the goal of completing as many levels as you can before losing all your lives (coins here work to increase the number of lives you have). Now, THIS I like. Each stage is significantly longer than the stages in Time Rush and Hero Mode, so it feels more like an actual platformer. Again, levels are randomly generated, so there’s still that element of surprise. All in all, I really like Escalate a lot.
Hero Factory is basically the same game as Escalate, but you can customize your character to change his speed and jump or you can give him power-ups! Hooray! Honestly, though, I couldn’t care less about customization. I know a lot of people do, but customizing is boring, especially if everything is randomly generated anyways. But to each their own!
Cloudberry Kingdom’s Free Play Mode moves out of the competition zone and instead lets you play the game however you want. You can customize just about anything here: your character, the difficulty, level length, and even obstacles! Again, I have no desire for customization, and Free Play Mode has no set goal, so I felt bored after, say, 2 minutes. But still, it’s there, and I guess it’s better than nothing.
In terms of visuals, Cloudberry Kingdom has this distinct art style that looks kind of like a flash game. Your character is a basic sillouette, enemies look cheap (but in a cheezy, charming way), and the platforms look hand-drawn. But it seems like the guys at Pwnee are hiring a graphics designer, which makes part of me feel bad, as I really do like these graphics, but the other part of me feel happy, because some of the stuff in the game is admittedly a bit bland. But we’ll see what the final product ends up being.
And the audio? Kind of a strange mix of soundtracks. Why is there a song about World War II in this game again?
Before I leave, I’d like to discuss something about Nintendo and the developer Pwnee (pronounced “pony”… how clever) Studios. Yes, I know it’s Steam Month here, but I feel the need to stick some love for Nintendo here as well. So, I just wanted to say that it’s really interesting to see a game like Cloudberry Kingdom being announced for the Wii U eShop so early. What’s even more interesting is that Pwnee Studios is an indie company home to no more than 10 developers. The fact that a small indie studio like Pwnee is in possession of Wii U dev kits is extraordinary, and what’s even more extraordinary is that Nintendo has already allowed Pwnee to distribute FREE DOWNLOAD CODES for the Wii U version of the game! It’s a huge change of heart for the Big N, something I’m sure we could all appreciate; something like this could never have happened just 12 months ago!
And the best thing is? Cloudberry Kingdom is actually good. Though I did end up getting a bit bored after going through those randomly generated levels over and over again, the prospect of a solid campaign and unique multiplayer modes really excite me for this game’s release. If this game isn’t on your radar, it very well should be.