Cloudberry Kingdom is a procedurally generated platformer for the Wii U (also available on Xbox 360, PS3 and Steam). Pwnee Studios, a small team lead by Jordan Fisher, developed the game. Ubisoft handled the publishing duties on the game. Cloudberry started out seeking help via a kickstarter because designing a game is a tough job and money does not last forever. The game reached its initial goal with the simple goal of designing an infinite platformer that could generate random levels via a smart AI. Initially the main objective was to bring the game to PC and Wii U, but Ubisoft got involved at some point and it went multi-console. So, how does this random platformer that reacts to player skill play?
Cloudberry Kingdom’s basic mechanic is simple, much like any other platformer, the player has to maneuver the hero, Bob, from one platform to the next while avoiding any obstacles. Unlike other platformers though, the levels are randomly generated, so the player will not play the same level twice. Additionally, the levels react to player skill, so the better the player is, the harder the levels get. At first, they are pretty basic avoid a few simple obstacles while making it to the door at the end of the level. After a while of solid play, the AI generating the levels will throw more obstacles at the player. The various obstacle combinations ramp up the difficult and test the players skill to huge degrees. Dealing with whirling saw blades while timing out flashing lasers, receeding spikes, moving platforms and falling enemies is a ballet of epic proportions. To make things more difficult, the game will sometimes throw in different types of heroes, which are often equipment added to Bob to change gameplay. Players will sometimes have to navigate levels as a spaceship or with a jetpack or strapped to a wheel or a bouncing toy horse or controlling gravity. It rarely makes things easier. It all adds to the challenge that players have to contend with in the levels. It is the variety and difficulty that makes mastering the gameplay highly rewarding. Gracefully moving through several levels without dying and quickly is an achievement. Plus, it looks pretty cool.
The game features several modes: Arcade, Story and Freeplay. In Arcade there are four different types of challenges. Escalation features Bob running through levels of increasing difficulty. The player has 15 lives to start with and after collecting 25 gems they will net an extra life. As the name implies, the difficult is ever increasing. It is a test of the players meddle to see how far they can get through the nearly limitless number of levels. In Time Crisis, players will navigate Bob through various levels with a short time limit. Every gem collected adds to the player’s time. However, it puts a burden on whether the player should collect gems or rush to the door as every second counts. Once the timer runs out that is it. Each of the Arcade modes features all of the various heroes and beating more levels will unlock the ability to play those modes as the hero. In story mode, players can enjoy a bit of story as Bob tries to rescue a princess from some jerk villain, although, he does not seem to eager to do it. Anyway, it is just thin packaging to deliver the game’s tutorial and guide players through various level types with different heroes and variable difficulties. Then there is Freeplay where players can create their own levels or randomly generate them. Want to turn everything up to the highest value? Go for it. Want to walk through levels? Go for it!
Tiger Hare Studios is responsible for providing the delightful artwork for the game. Looking through the original prototypes and mock-ups for Cloudberry Kingdom, it is a huge relief that they found such a talented art studio to create the visual look for the game. Everything has a slick look to it that pops with color. From Bob’s middle aged, jump suited physique (and the various customization players can do to generate new heroes) to the weird obstacles with doofy faces, the art is great. Where the game shines the most is in its soundtrack. There is something very right about the high energy electronic music mixed with the intense platforming action and adorable art style. The energy of the soundtrack makes the player feel as if they should not be taking too much time making any one decision in the game, but rather give in to their natural platforming instincts; going into a zen trance of platforming fueled by high octane music. Blind Digital and Peacemaker created a superb soundtrack for the game.
Cloudberry Kingdom is a fun game. It is difficult in the best way possible. There is a sense of true platforming driving the game. Instead of being extremely nostalgic or overly making homages, Cloudberry tries something new by trying to make a platformer that can be enjoyed way past the developer designed levels. By creating an AI in the game that generates things randomly and reacts to the player, Pwnee has created something that can be played for quite a long time. The Freeplay option is a great touch that can allow players to be a maestro of levels when playing four player co-op with friends or a DJ when playing by themselves and wanting to put their skills to the test. Plus, Bob can turn into a spaceship, so that is something indeed!