Also On: XBLA, Wii U, PC
Developer: Pwnee Studios
Shortly after I started playing Cloudberry Kingdom, my wife came into our TV room and watched me play for a few minutes. Her observation?
"It's crazy how Nintendo did all this stuff 25 years ago, and people are still making games like it today."
While that's a slightly reductionist take on the history of platformers, the basic sentiment behind it pretty much nails everything there is to know about Cloudberry Kingdom. It's a game that, for better or for worse, owes a huge debt of gratitude to Super Mario Bros., and makes no effort whatsoever to hide that fact.
Actually, I'm not sure why I included "for worse" there, because Cloudberry KIngdom's take on the platforming genre is pretty much all great. It doesn't try and bog the game down in gimmicks or innovations: it gives you a princess to save, drops you at the beginning of a level, and sets you on your side-scrolling way. It doesn't have flashy graphics or complicated controls. The only way it could be more SMB-ish would be if you were a plumber instead of a scruffy, weird-looking superhero-type guy.
Well that, and it would have to be way, way easier. Because that's the one really significant way that this game differs from those of yesteryear: it piles on the difficulty to the point of insanity. I know it's customary to say that old games are harder than modern ones, but when Cloudberry Kingdom really gets going, the only thing I can compare it to is that level from Battletoads. In both story mode and arcade mode, the levels just keep adding more and more moving platforms and rotating balls of death and spikes and massive gaps, and if you stop for a moment to think about what you're doing, you die in a fiery explosion. This game is all about good timing and quick reflexes, and if you have either of those qualities in short supply, you'll die a lot.
Of course, even if you do have those qualities, you'll probably die a lot too, because that's just how Cloudberry Kingdom works. Yet, much as those old, seemingly impossible platformers were still fun because of the challenge they offered, this game is still a blast. It's got loads of charm, and it's enjoyable from beginning to end (the end being theoretical in this case — where the game's arcade mode promises infinite, randomly-generated levels, it seems to mean it). As long as you're up for a challenge, Cloudberry Kingdom is well worth a download.