(Note: I spent about five or ten minutes playing the trial version of this on the 360. The following views are therefore thoroughly unfounded, and should not be taken as seriously as my usual critical views. But still, I need to get back into writing shit, and this will help dramatically. Thank you.)
Cloudberry Kingdom doesn’t give a fuck about you. There’s no explanation of the controls, it’s just assumed you know them. And to be fair, if you’ve played platformers before, you probably do know the controls. They’re not difficult to work out. But if you’ve never played a game before, Cloudberry feels like the kind of game that would stare at you wide-eyed, as though you were some creature from a distant planet, then laugh and give you an @ mention on Twitter while it berates you openly for having never platformed before. It might send you offensive .gifs. I don’t really know. It’s been a while since I’ve openly abused people.
The premise is stupidly simple, but the execution is insane. You have to go from left to right, jumping on platforms, doding enemies. But every single level is randomly generated. There’s an AI that knows every level is possible, but there’s a little part of your brain that says “fuck off” every time you try and convince yourself that this is a real thing that’s really happening. This is a randomly generated platformer. Years of Dark Chronicle couldn’t get me used to that fact.
The randomness is strangely beautiful because you’re either totally fucked or just a little bit fucked. Some levels come up that are fairly straightforward, but for the most part you’re relying on near pixel-perfect platforming skills to get anywhere. There’s a certain amount of glitchiness involved that I assume is deliberate – you can pretty much stand in mid-air so long as you’ve got a single pixel on a platform, for example. But for the most part if you are a white men (not knowing for their jumping prowess, in what has to be my weakest pop culture reference ever) then you’re dead. Dead dead dead dead dead.
Yeah there’s lives, and you get them back by collecting the gem things in each level, but you’re gonna die a lot. And you’ll finally work out the system, and then forget that this block is actually that block and you’ll walk off the edge and die. Or your timing will be slightly different on this run and that spike will imaple your groin in a manner most unbecoming of a young jumper. So you’ll still game over in no time.
For some people, dying is fun. Masochists, I believe. I’m usually a bit down, but dying doesn’t seem to fill me with any joy, even in a Schadenfreude way (probably because it’s still technically me dying). So maybe that’s my problem with it. Only it isn’t. This is a game that’s made for people who find seriously challenging things fun, and I do like a bit of a challenge from time to time, but Cloudberry never feels particularly rewarding. It’s almost like every time you beat that super hard level you were just stuck on, the game winks at you and says, “I let you have that one.” There’s no room to breathe and bask in your glory. You’re just onto the next level.
The next level always seems to be that bit easier though, probably because of the randomisation and marginally because you’ve just battered your way through that really tough level and some of your skill is still left over. But then you reach another bastard hard level, and Cloudberry giggles at you while eating some popcorn. It has the audacity to ask for payment (in the gems you pick up I think) in order to show you that, yes, the level is actually very possible, and then just goes out and does it. Perfectly. Like a prick. It’s as though you’re at a friends house and he’s really good at it, and he’s sat behind you going “NO NOT LIKE THAT FUCKING HELL WHY ARE YOU SO BAD” (a thing I did yesterday, sorry) and then when you go “YOU DO IT THEN” he says “I’ll do it for a quid” because he’s a prick. And you pay him. Of course you do.
Or maybe it’s a her. Sorry. Gender stereotypes and really firmly stuck in my head. I am but a middle-class white cis-gendered male.
Look, it’s actually a really really well put together game. It looks gorgeous and it’s good fun if you like that sort of thing and the controls are essentially perfect for a platformer (though I like mine a little floatier but that’s just personal preference). But it’s just a little too smug for my taste. It’s got this little smirk on all the time, because you’re fucking ham-handed in comparison to its almighty AI who can suck you off while making eggs Benedict or whatever. And yeah maybe the story mode is cool (like seriously I don’t know I was playing the trial). And you could always just make it super easy for yourself on Freeplay and breeze through like your Jesus or something. But what would be the point? There’s no fun in not being challenged, but there’s no real sense of reward from being challenged.
But you should totally check it out for yourself. I’m probably just hungry or something.