Growing up, I never went out of my way to collect all the coins in Super Mario Bros., or made it a point to stomp on Goombas. For me, the joy of a sidescrolling platformer was to haul ass, making it from the starting point to the finish line as quickly as possible. There’s a sense of pride one feels after dodging a swarm of Bullet Bills, sliding under a ring of fire, and successfully clearing Bowser’s castle. After playing Cloudberry Kingdom, it’s clear I wasn’t the only one with that mindset.
The basic object of Cloudberry Kingdom is to speedrun to the exit as fast as possible, leaving every man for themselves. The levels are very short, the gameplay is fast, and the obstacles are plentiful, so you’ll need to carefully navigate to the end-point, avoiding spikes, fire, lasers, and of course, wide-open death pits.
This upcoming downloadable game from Ubisoft was nearly hidden in the middle of a seas of triple-A blockbuster demos positioned throughout Nintendo’s booth at E3. I heard some great things about the high-energy platformer, and lucky enough, I had just enough time left at the tail-end of my final day at E3 to sneak in one more game. I strapped on the Wii Remote, and began playing with three other players — two of which were members from the development team at Pwnee Studios, T.J. Lutz, and Jordan Fisher. From there began the most fun play session of any local co-op platformer I’ve played in the last decade.
The gameplay is quick, chaotic, and incredibly addicting. Each time you die, you have a few mere seconds to refocus and strategize before the next round. You may die upwards of thirty times on one round, just trying to complete a 6-second level, but as frustrating as dying may be in other titles, it’s not here. It’s hilarious.
Once a member of your troupe clears the threshold however, you’re onto the next stage. The loading times are nonexistent, and while you’re struggling through one level, the next course is instantly loaded and ready to go as soon as you get there. The levels are generated based on an algorithm that determines player skill level, crafting new experiences every time you play. Your skills will always be put to the test because memorizing the layout of each level just isn’t possible.
For those that like an even greater challenge, there’s also a level creator mode that lets the players add as many obstacles as they want. I challenged the developers, saying there would be no way anyone could complete a level with all toggles maxed out for each obstacle. They took that opportunity to prove me dead wrong, by turning on an option that allows you to watch an AI sprite successfully complete the crazy-as-hell level you just created. My jaw dropped.
The game features a bunch of different play modes, including a story mode, free play mode, and this crazy as hell bungie mode that keeps all players tethered together. When one dies, they become dead-weight, bouncing below and dragging you down, making the level that much harder. You can also customize your character into any of the adorable heros available — I opted for a bearded sorcerer.
The overall polish, creativity, and originality Cloudberry Kingdom brings forth to the platformer genre is like nothing I’ve seen in the last few hardware generations. While there’s no plan for online multiplayer, this is the kind of game you’ll want to play with friends on the same couch, laughing like kids for hours on end. A crowd of attendees even formed around us at the E3 demo booth to watch us play because we were clearly having so much fun. The game is an absolute must-buy when it releases later this summer for Wii U eShop, XBLA, PSN, PC, and Mac, and goes down as my personal favorite downloadable title at E3 2013.