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Cloudberry Kingdom review

cloudberry kingdom box art
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £8
inc VAT

A rock-hard platformer whose infinite death pits truly separates the men from the boys

Born from a Kickstarter project to build the ultimate random level generator, Cloudberry Kingdom is not for the faint of heart. With an infinite capacity to generate laser-filled death traps, swinging spiky balls of doom and bottomless pits (often all at once), it makes platformers like Super Meat Boy look positively pedestrian by comparison.

Levels often don’t take more than ten or fifteen seconds to complete, but each one will have you breathing a sigh of relief by the end. Coins help you pick your way through the ensuing chaos, but your timing must be pitch perfect as one foot out of place will send you straight back to the start or a mid-way checkpoint.

Cloudberry Kingdom screen
You think this looks hard? Think again

Thankfully, Cloudberry’s Story Mode lets you get acquainted with the game’s mad-cap ideas at a much gentler rate than either its Arcade or Free Play modes. With 40 levels to each of its seven chapters, there’s plenty to get stuck in with and the difficulty increases incrementally with each new corridor.

There are a few drawbacks to relying so heavily on randomly generated content, though, as its constant recycling of enemy types and thinly re-skinned backgrounds means there aren’t really any stand-out levels. That’s not to say you won’t have fun at the same time, but its lack of concrete level design doesn’t quite capture the classic timelessness of a mine cart level from Donkey Kong Country, for example, or one of Mario’s many escapades in the Mushroom Kingdom.

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The game rewards those who jump headlong into the chaos. Hesitate and you will die

That said, the pacing is remarkable for a game that leaves so much up to chance, and the incremental difficulty level never feels too far out of reach. There’s always the option to spend some of your well-earned coins to get the game to show you how to do it, but the satisfaction lies in dodging that last flaming death wheel by the skin of your teeth as you head for the home straight.

Anti-hero Bob has a variety of powers to help shake up the action as well. Some abilities feature fairly mundane powers like a double jump and a jet pack; others break from the game’s platforming roots entirely. These include a spaceship that turns levels into a pseudo-shoot ‘em up and rocket-powered mine carts that mimic infinite runner games. There’s even the option to cram poor Bob in a box, where the only way you can maintain momentum is to keep jumping like your life depended on it.

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Up to four friends can get in on the action as well, both in Story mode and in Arcade mode

In Story Mode, these powers often last for stretches of ten levels, giving you just enough time to get to grips with them before you’re presented with the next challenge. This not only helps to keep the game feeling fresh, but it also feeds into the grip of its ‘just one more’ level structure as players eagerly await to see what might come next.

Powers are taken to their extremes in Arcade mode, though, as high scores can be attained in all ten abilities. You’ll need to play a fair chunk of the story before you can unlock all four Arcade modes and its individual powers, but once you’ve reached the necessary player level, there’s little to stop you from throwing Bob into death pit after death pit.

There’s also a Free Play mode as well where you can play single levels that are crafted to your liking. You pick the location, ability, level length, and the difficulty setting (aptly named ‘Unpleasant’, ‘Abusive’ and ‘Hardcore’) and the game will spit out levels accordingly. Want a level that’s all cloud and lava waterfalls with no floor and only Box Bob for company? No problem. It’s an incredibly clever algorithm, and to make life even more difficult for yourself, you can customise how difficult it is to jump, the level speed, how many enemy types appear in each level and how aggressive enemy types are to name but a few types of alteration you can make. You can even combine powers in the Hero Factory and play with up to three friends.

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Good luck getting through that in one piece!

It’s a platformer that truly caters to fans of the genre, although the icing on the cake would have been an online option to share your random hellish Free Play creations with your friends and put them through their paces. You can save levels to load and play again alone, after all, so it seems like a missed opportunity that you can’t do more with them.

The lack of online aside, Cloudberry Kingdom is a game that just keeps on giving, quite literally. It throws down the gauntlet to other platformers, and while it’s a shame there’s not a set of so-called “core” levels that truly capture its personality and that players can talk about collectively, it seems churlish to complain when the A.I at its heart is so satisfying. A must buy for platformer enthusiasts.



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