(Wii U eShop)

Cloudberry Kingdom (Wii U eShop)

Game Review

Cloudberry Kingdom Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Maddeningly brilliant

Cloudberry Kingdom has never left anyone in doubt — it wants to test and infuriate gamers. Yes, there are easier options and levels, but its trump card is filling a screen with what looks like an impassable range of obstacles and then teasing the gamer with the hint of a possibility that it can be beaten. It's a cruel, bullying game, yet oddly lovable at the same time; a Biff Tannen (see Back to the Future) of video games, if you will.

To make a brief comparison to the 2D platforming series behemoth featuring Nintendo's portly plumber, this title adopts the usual "kidnapped Princess" storyline, but with a little more attitude and the occasional twist — the playable hero, Bob, is a rather cantankerous little mascot, while the Princess is anything but pink and 'ladylike'. The cutscenes that tell the tale aren't particularly slick, however, and it feels rather irrelevant, if ultimately harmless. The lack of worthwhile tone-setting carries across to the audio, too, with a random series of techno tracks that loop around, pumping out beats and feeling more suitable for a shmup than a platformer; it's all part of being edgy, perhaps, but serves as little more than a disappointing backdrop to a lot of top-notch platforming.

The Story Mode can do without the story and the pumping soundtrack, then, but is more about tackling a lot of quickfire levels with ever-quirkier challenges. Much has been made of the randomly generated levels, but in this mode — broken up into seven chapters that are typically 40 levels each — there's a degree of structure and a gradual difficulty curve. There can be spikes; odd levels that had us gnawing our fingernails to oblivion, but for the most part it feels like a logical, steady introduction as you learn the ropes.

The best thing about this mode is that it introduces the player to the 20-45 second levels that don't vary significantly in terms of props, but are given plenty of life by Bob's various incarnations. Each set of ten levels typically follows a specific control theme, ranging from Classic running and jumping, to mini-Bob, fat Bob, double-jump Bob and more besides. A few examples are off-the-wall, with one that completely switches up how levels are tackled, so we won't spoil them here. Suffice to say every gamer will have their favourites, and maybe one or two that they don't particularly enjoy.

Most importantly, these Story Mode levels feel well-designed for the respective obligatory power-ups, so that focused, skilful players will be able to churn through upwards of 150 levels in a few hours, with the occasional road-block slowing progress. As you move further on the difficulty ramps up to maddening degrees, yet as the stages are so short — with checkpoints in most cases — it sucks you in to try one more time. Often, despite myriad spiked obstacles and deadly laser beams, you can glimpse a Bob-width space through which to leap; five minutes and 20 deaths later you might just nail it. As we've mentioned, there are noticeable points where difficulty spikes too far, but for the most part this story mode gradually hones and tightens your skills to make the impossible, possible.

As you progress through the Story Mode levels you receive a rating point for each level passed, and it's from here that you can step into the Arcade Mode. You need to attain certain ratings to unlock each, and they provide twists on the Story's structure and encourage one-sitting score — or level — chasing. Escalation gives you limited lives — topped up with points from collectible gems — and gradually ups the ante as you rattle through levels. Hero types — those variations from the Story Mode — are unlocked with progress, and each has its own profile at the mode select, so reaching level 50 (or 100 etc) with Classic Bob will allow you to start from that stage next time around with that character, for example.

Time Crises shakes things up with short, 3-5 second stages and a very limited amount of time; only gems increase your time between stages. Hero Rush adopts that mechanic, but changes your Hero type in every stage, necessitating a quick mind and rapid adjustment as you grab extras and race to the end.

Free Play is where the random level generator comes into the most effect, as you can determine the level of difficulty, setting, and Hero type. At the end of every level you can save it to play in future — this is an option in all modes — or continue with random stages; as the only mode without a driven structure, this actually has the least appeal; yet it is the ideal training ground for less experienced platform gamers.

It's certainly worth being clear, however, that those that are less experienced or skillful gamers should think twice before picking this up. While it's possible to play the easier levels, this is an experience that thrives when putting up a significant challenge. That's partly due to the structure of the stages, with a fixed side-scrolling perspective with no verticality; it's simply running to the goal on the right, without exploration or hidden items to hunt out. The controls are tight and the levels often well constructed and a blast to play, but the simplistic style means that it shines with steady improvement towards fiendish stages; for those that can't get beyond the early levels, much of the pleasure will be lost, or — worse case scenario — not even discovered.

Even for those with quick thumbs, however, progressing becomes a battle of attrition. The gems that are collected can be redeemed for a few useful tools, either to be shown a route or to simply slow down time, and these are nice extras to utilise. Other fun extras include the ability to customise Bob's appearance, while up to three extra players can join in at any point. This essentially adds extra lives, as only one player needs to make it to the end, and it's an enjoyable title to play with a friend on the couch. There's also the obligatory off-TV play, but no other Wii U features, while the absence of online leaderboards at launch — an update is promised — is a let-down.

Conclusion

Cloudberry Kingdom has a simple structure and piles up hundreds of 30-second stages to blast through. And yet, the various iterations of Bob keep things fresh, and it's a momentum-focused experience that urges players to always play one more level. The attempted storyline has little impact, while the heavy-hitting randomised music is disappointing; themed tracks for each area would have been preferable. Despite those shortcomings, this is a blast for experienced platformers, with difficulty to test the best reflexes you have to offer; ideal for 30-minute bursts of unremitting fun.

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User Comments (46)

odd69

#3

odd69 said:

I decided not to get this but i still wonder the differences of the consoles. I own a ps3 and a WiiU i wonder which is the go to must have version? i know that eventually this game will be 5.00$ on psn, and thats where i decide if i want it. Something tells me this isnt my type of platformer,but whos to say what is?

bezerker99

#4

bezerker99 said:

I was waiting for a review before I got this. Really thinking about gettin' it now.....gotta make sure I got enough funds first though.

XCWarrior

#5

XCWarrior said:

I'll be picking this up for sure down the road. Just bought way too many lately. but I love difficult platformers, so this will stay on my wish list so I don't forget.

Ndayday

#6

Ndayday said:

Yeah music is really the only thing that bothers me. It feels like it's just there and not really doing anything. Besides that though this game is incredible! Leaderboards will be fun.

EdEN

#8

EdEN said:

@odd69: Get it on Wii U. The Wii U gamepad's Dpad is perfect for the game. I've completed 5 chapters on PS3 and 3 on Wii U, and the game is easier to get into on Wii U because of the superior gamepad.

ueI

#10

ueI said:

This review has made it very clear that the game is meant to be played on harder difficulties, but I would like to know more if anyone can tell me. Exactly how easy can you make the game before you lose all the fun, and how good do you have to be to enjoy it? Judging from the trailer, I'll be playing the game on "abusive" difficulty if I ever get it.

Dpullam

#11

Dpullam said:

This game is looking pretty decent. I am still not sure if I would consider getting it though.

AddDavey

#12

AddDavey said:

I wasn't too keen on this game because of its art style but after reading many reviews I'm now going to get it as soon as I can :D

idork99

#14

idork99 said:

I am sooo torn!

Historically, I've been known to buy Nintendo systems, home console or portable, on day one compulsively. That came to a halt this generation with the 3DS. Ocarina of Time 3D was the only reason I purchased a 3DS as I had no intention of ever buying another Nintendo system in my life.

So...I've had my 3DS since then and all I have to say is wow! I've never loved a system sooo much as I love my 3DS!

It's sadly the reason I don't own a Wii U currently as I don't see the need to own one when I already own a great system with so many games to play! And I'm one of the few that plays with the 3D on at all times as it is just put to great use in many games. It rarely adds anything new to the gameplay but boy it sure looks pretty!

Then I read reviews such as these and feel sorta guilty. I know I'll love the Wii U like no other but I have so much left to play on my 3DS! So, hang in there Nintendo! As I am going to wait until Mario Kart 8 releases to purchase a Wii U.

Gamers, if you don't mind portable gaming, do yourselves a favor and purchase a 3DS. If you love gaming with the big screen at home where you can see everything clearly, get yourself a Wii U! In my perspective, they are equivalently excellent systems!

DefHalan

#16

DefHalan said:

This is a really fun game but I really enjoy platformers. I use this game to kill a few minutes while waiting for my wife to get ready. I do recommend this to everyone

Ndayday

#18

Ndayday said:

@idork99 dude there's no reason to feel guilty, this game and the Wii U will still be around when you get one. and you can't blame yourself for having too many games to play, heh.

AtomicToaster

#20

AtomicToaster said:

This game is awesome. Wasn't wild about it at first but it grows on you once you get how the patterns work.

daveh30

#23

daveh30 said:

Loving this one so far... Makes New Luigi U look like a walk in the park.

TruenoGT

#24

TruenoGT said:

Am tempted to snag this, but I still haven't spent enough time with Super Meat Boy (PC), so I've got my super tough platformer fix until that happens! Speaking of that game, a Wii U version would be awesome seeing as they could never make it happen on WiiWare...

GreatPlayer

#25

GreatPlayer said:

This game is actually pretty fun - if you think Luigi U is too easy then you should get this one. The difficulty ramped up really fast. You always feel like one more round when playing it because each stage is so short.

This game does have an issue - framerate of the cutscenes. I was shocked when I saw the framerate dips as it is not a graphic intensive game, but as the review said, you don't care too much about the story anyway. The framerate of the actual gameplay is very constant and fluid.

ToxieDogg

#26

ToxieDogg said:

I'm nearly through the Story now (up to stage 207) and my left thumb is actually hurting from playing so much. Haven't had that for a while. This is an absolutely brilliant platformer, and the random nature of the stages makes it always worth a play. Never thought I'd say that because I usually hate random things in games, but the stages in Cloudberry Kingdom are always possible (just very hard) and you can at least save them after completion if you want so they're not lost forever. Annoyingly, I had 100% coin collection until about stage 180, then I noticed that I'd somehow missed 1 somewhere along the way, so I'll have to do another run through it now to feel like I've 'beaten' it properly. D'oh!

rmeyer

#27

rmeyer said:

The reviewer didnt like the music? Techno is pretty fitting for this type of game.

MAB

#28

MAB said:

I found that when this track plays it actually helps me get through a tough set of stages for just being trip hoppy awesome ;)

Wowfunhappy

#29

Wowfunhappy said:

@ueI I really don't agree with the review in this respect. The game is perfectly enjoyable on easier difficulties, all that matters is what is hard for you personally? The random level generator is great; you can tweak it however you want.

deusy

#30

deusy said:

I love this game so much, I don't think I've been this addicted to something before. I've been emailing Pwnee Studios, and they're pretty cool. I asked them about the story mode and they said:

"100% of every level you see was generated by the AI. We ended up
constructing the campaign by playing through thousands of levels and
hand-picking the ones that we thought gave the best overall experience and
ramped up the difficulty at the appropriate level for a fun campaign, as
well as introducing new obstacles at a good rate. It took a long time :-P"

I hope these guys can use this AI they've made for some more games.

Cosats

#33

Cosats said:

I find the music wonderful in this game. It doesn't have to be Super candy Mario themes all the time

GreatPlayer

#34

GreatPlayer said:

The music is not the best - I do not find it fit the theme of the overall gameplay. But it was something that I can overlook anyway.

I think that this game is good. The gameplay reminds me of my old megadrive platforming games and Mario 1 and 2. $10 is absolutely a steal.

GreatPlayer

#35

GreatPlayer said:

@idork99 I played Sonic Transformed more than any other games on my Wii U. I actually think the online gameplay of Sonic Transformed is enough to persuade Mario Kart lovers to buy a Wii U. To me racing on both sea and sky makes up far more varied gameplay than Mario Kart.

banacheck

#36

banacheck said:

Arcade mode

The trick to scoring high scores for the Leaderboards, is collecting the gems for the multiplyer, but if you miss a gem or die you lose the multiplyer. Also the faster you collect the gems the more points you get, once you pass level 50 your multiplyer will go from a 8x to a 12x multiplyer, than every 20 levels the multiplyer will get higher 70, 90 etc. i really like the game.

HeatBombastic

#37

HeatBombastic said:

I thought the random level generator would make it easier for less experienced players?

Anyways, I don't think fixed music would work because sometimes you go through stages so quickly, having music change when I move to the cave level could be annoying.

DarkEdi

#38

DarkEdi said:

I´m attracted to this game, but i don´t like the look of the protagonist.

ArkOne77

#41

ArkOne77 said:

This game is awesome! I personally like the music. Certain songs as MadAussieBloke said earlier get you amped up when trying to clear a tougher level. For those that don't.....go into "Options" and pull the music slider volume down. Make your own soundtrack! But DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS ONE. Same goes for protagonist appearance.....change it! I made my BOB look like Raiden from Mortal Kombat. LOL

ReindeerDasher

#44

ReindeerDasher said:

Got this game day one, I LOVE it! It's so addicting and each level was extremely well designed imo. And the random level generator is great too.

unrandomsam

#45

unrandomsam said:

I got this and Spelunky at a similar point in time and I prefer Spelunky by miles simply because the controls are done right.

(They both have procedurally generated levels but the controls are much tighter in Spelunky which for me is the most important thing.)

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