What has happened to the days of trial-and-error platformer gaming? Those old NES and Mega Drive titles which saw you repeating the same level over and over in order to finally make it to the far right side of the seemingly ever-scrolling screen? The games which had no boss battles nor real 'enemies' except for precariously placed platforms and jump pads. As soon as the first demo stage of Cloudberry Kingdom boots up, it's apparent that Pwnee Studios has truly revived the old-style of platforming, and it's back with a vengeance.
Cloudberry Kingdom as a game has come a very long way since we first heard about it early last year. Before it had reached its funding goal on Kickstarter, Cloudberry looked a little rough around the edges, with only a very basic stick-man art style accompanying a challenging gameplay experience. Since then the team behind Pwnee Studios has given the game a serious make-over, providing a vibrant aesthetic design, cute LittleBigPlanet style papercraft cut-scenes and a seriously hardcore soundtrack.
Our hands-on experience provided us with a glimpse of the Arcade Mode, made up of randomly-generated levels that vary in difficulty, from very easy to insanely hard. The aim of the Arcade Mode is very simple: complete as many levels as possible with a given amount of lives, by surviving from one end of the screen to the other, facing a number of tricky platforming puzzles and traps along the way. When teaming up with friends, player one takes control of the gamepad, while up to three others use Wii Remotes. As far as we're aware the GamePad user has no great advantage over any of the other players, nor possesses any special ability. The controls are also very simple and intuitive, with run, jump and duck being the only moves you have to remember, making it extremely accessible and easy to pick up and play.
With each challenge you complete the levels become harder, causing you to tread carefully and at many points simply pause to watch the rhythm of the moving platforms and traps ahead of you in order to jump at the optimum point. The levels can be extremely tricky, and will undoubtedly make many players throw down their GamePads in anger (and then later sob while forking out £100 for a new one). Many have compared Cloudberry Kingdom to the indie sensation Super Meat Boy, which also focuses on challenging gameplay and frustrated many players when it first released in 2010. However, Cloudberry Kingdom possesses its own charm, different enough to stand apart from other difficult platformers on the marketplace due to its clever AI design, and its ability to conjure unique levels to complete every single time you load up the game.
While practicing levels over and over again until you have perfected them can be seen as a daunting and frankly boring experience to some, Cloudberry Kingdom balances just the right amount of challenge with reward, giving you a reason to keep trying despite this being the 10th time you've fallen of that ledge. While we didn't get a chance to try out the story mode, as the demo only provided a glimpse at the Arcade setting, it was explained to us that Cloudberry Kingdom offers plenty of customisation options for the game's anti-hero Bob, including, most importantly, a vast array of beards. Pwnee has also promised the inclusion of online leaderboards as well as a custom level builder mode, where you can edit the length of the stage and the types and amount of enemies, traps and moving or stationary platforms on the screen at one time.
Cloudberry Kingdom is definitely one to watch, with a presumably infinite number of levels to tackle and a grueling difficulty curve, enough to make the most patient of saints blaspheme. Speaking exclusively to Nintendo Life, Pwnee's TJ Lutz confirmed that Cloudberry Kingdom is still aiming towards a Summer 2013 release on the Wii U eShop, Steam, XBLA, PSN and PlayStation Mobile. So spare a thought for TJ as he races to meet all of his multi-platform release paperwork deadlines while you're sipping lemonade in the sunshine.