Game Review: Cloudberry Kingdom
Let me tell you the difference between a challenging game and a frustrating game.
A challenging game may be difficult, it may even make you angry, but if you keep at it long enough, you’ll figure out what it is you have to do in order to beat it, and you’ll do it. When you beat a challenging game, you feel like you’ve out-smarted it, that you learned its weaknesses and powered through them to victory.
A frustrating game is a game that is difficult, but for reasons that aren’t always fair or clearly-defined. A frustrating game will employ trial-and-error mechanics, ensuring that victory can only come from rote memorization. A frustrating game will often control poorly, and sometimes even incorporate its own poor controls into the gameplay. Finally, when you beat a frustrating game, you don’t feel like you accomplished anything, you just feel relieved that you don’t have to play it again.
Rogue Legacy is a challenging game. Spelunky straddles the line between the two. Super Meat Boy goes over the line sometimes, but never enough to make you hate it.
But then there’s Cloudberry Kingdom.
Cloudberry Kingdom isn’t just frustrating, it’s one of the most frustrating games I’ve played in years. It might just be the most frustrating game I’ve ever played that wasn’t just straight-up broken.
It’s an ugly, brutal mess of a game that lacks anything that someone might construe as fun. Not a single thing about the game, from the graphics and music to the gameplay and level design, is with merit or worth praise.
I hate this game.
At first, Cloudberry Kingdom appears to be just like any other platformer. You play as Bob, a past-his-prime hero who once again has to traverse the Kingdom to rescue the Princess from an evil villain. To do so, you have to navigate one level after another, dodging fireballs, spike traps, and other typical trappings of the platforming genre.
But Cloudberry Kingdom is a bit different than most games. All of its levels were procedurally generated, meaning that they were created by a computer program and not designed by a human. It’s a novel concept, and the generator is included with the game so players can use it to create their own levels to their heart’s content. However, considering how poorly the game plays, I imagine that their hearts will be pretty content after about 20 minutes, which is how long I enjoyed Cloudberry Kingdom before I wanted to punch it.
While Cloudberry Kingdom starts out easy, it gets hard fast, and far too much of that difficulty is due to the fact that the game controls like garbage. Bob does not respond well to your controls. Finite movements, a must in games like this, rarely work, and his jumping comes off as sluggish and slow. And things get even worse when you have to play certain levels with powerups or other modifiers like jetpacks or double-jumps, which do nothing but further showcase how horrible it feels to move this green bastard around the screen.
The double-jump is the worst of the bunch. In some stages, you need to double-jump off enemies heads; do it too soon, you’ll jump over them and fall to your death. But if you do it a fraction of a millisecond too late, you’ll just do a single-jump and fail to reach the platform you were aiming for as well. The timing is so exact, I spent nearly 20 minutes trying to clear the first jump on one level because of it. Couple that with some really random hit detection, and you have a recipe for a broken controller.
The game does offer some “help” to get you through the harder levels. As you run through the levels of Cloudberry Kingdom, you collect gems that you can then spend on things like slow-motion, a guideline that shows you the path through the level, or a CPU playthough that you can study to see where to go. I found both the CPU runthrough and the slow-motion options useless, while the guideline offered its own level of frustration. Many times I was following the guideline beat-for-beat, only to die by a spike trap or laser beam. Why? I have no idea.
However, perhaps the most unfortunate fault of Cloudberry Kingdom are the levels themselves. Yes, it’s impressive that the developers were able to write such a complicated level creator, but the truth is that the levels it creates are all ugly, bland and boring. Even with all the different modifiers that Bob can acquire during the game, the gameplay of Cloudberry Kingdom never changes. There’s no depth to the platforming, no exploration, no adventure. Just run, jump and repeat. That was boring in 1992, making it frustratingly hard doesn’t make it any less boring today.
I would like to say that even though I found this game to be a boring, frustrating and ugly mess, I did slog through the whole thing, as I felt was my duty if I was going to review it.
My reward for beating it? One of the most misogynistic and disgusting “jokes” I’ve ever seen in a game.
So the plot twist of Cloudberry Kingdom is that Bob doesn’t really care about the Princess, in actuality, he’s after the magical orb the villain has. Turns out though, so is the princess, and she tries to kill Bob to keep it all for herself. However, when she finally does use it, its power literally tears her in half. As she lies on the ground, dead, Bob uses her head as a platform to get to the pedestal, and says the following:
Get it?! She’s dead! And he’s using her lifeless head to get what he wants! And head also means “a blowjob!” Isn’t that just the funniest thing ever?!?
Fuck this game.