Posted on: September 4, 2013 Posted by: Cameron Comments: 0

The opening sequence to Cloudberry Kingdom gave me more anxiety than most full games ever have or will. In it, a computer-controlled character navigates through an endless loop of randomly-generated platforming levels from hell, narrowly dodging spikes and sawblades on his way to safety. These levels looked impossible, with no discernable pattern or pause in the action to speak of.

“How the heck am I supposed to do that?” I asked myself. And as I pressed the start button, one thing was certain – I was going to die a lot.

Cloudberry Kingdom began as a Kickstarter project from Pwnee Studios with a modest $20,000 budget, but was picked up by publishing giant Ubisoft for distribution. In it, you’re tasked with navigating your cartoonish and customizable character through an endless supply of increasingly difficult levels.

The hook of Cloudberry Kingdom is its algorithms, which it uses to create a literally endless supply of levels to continuously test your platforming chops. As you play deeper, the levels get more and more challenging, and even though a perfect run can get you through a level in a matter of seconds, the chances of getting a perfect run on your first attempt are very, very low. Laser beams, enemies, saws, falling and disappearing platforms, everything conspires to kill you, and there were times when I would reach a level, see what awaited me, and would ask again, “Seriously, how the heck am I supposed to do that?”

But that challenge is what makes Cloudberry Kingdom so much fun. There’s a sort of masochistic joy to it all, and I couldn’t wait to see how the algorithms would come together to try and thwart me next. And fortunately, each level contains ten crystals to collect, but their real purpose seems to be serving as a guide for the best path to take. Often times it’s best to bomb through a level to match the optimal timing, turning your run into a twitch-reflex sprint to the finish that leaves you out of breath by the time you finish.

A game like this would be impossibly frustrating if its controls were imprecise, but Cloudberry Kingdom’s are buttoned up tight. It was strangely comforting knowing that if – when – I died, it was my fault, and the instant respawn means that there’s no consequence for experimenting and ultimately dying other than starting back at the beginning of the level.

Make no mistake, Cloudberry Kingdom is frustrating – thus is the nature of platformers that demand this level of perfection – but it’s never unfair. And when you finally do complete a difficult level after hundreds of attempts, the feeling of accomplishment is such that you’ll eagerly move on to the next one to experience it again.

Throw in the ability to adjust game sliders to change everything about your character and the game physics (which the computer will then use to create new levels for you), and you’re looking at a serious amount of replay ability. Hardcore fans will find as much content as they can possibly handle, and it’s impressive to see a level come together out of nothingness and work.

The difficulty will be a turnoff to some, and the graphics, while cute, are nothing to write home about. But if platforming is your thing, and you like a game that will happily kick your butt, Cloudberry Kingdom is worth a buy.

Rating: 8/10

Cloudberry Kingdom Box Art

Cloudberry Kingdom Xbox Live Arcade Review/ Pwnee Studios, Ubisoft/

(This game was reviewed with a download code provided by the publisher)

(Cameron Gidari is a freelance writer and the author of Manhattan Before8 and Seattle Before8. Follow him on Twitter at @CGidari)

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