Thursday, September 5, 2013

Profound Sadness: Cloudberry Kingdom

Let me put one thing out there first and foremost: I haven't played Cloudberry Kingdom. The reason for that is simply because I don't fucking want to.

I, as well as many of the friends I have, grew up on platform games. My first video game ever was Super Mario Bros., and I've been rocking platformers ever since. From puzzle-platformers such as Limbo and Mighty Switch Force to limit-testing adrenaline fests like Super Meat Boy and Bit.Trip Runner, as well as everything in between...I love them. I love nailing those pixel-perfect jumps in Mega Man and Castlevania, jumping around to explore the vast worlds in Super Metroid and Shadow Complex, and rocketing through stages non-stop in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Donkey Kong Country. It just never gets old to me, period.

One of Super Meat Boy's final stages, aptly titled "4 Letter Word."

As of late, there's been a trend in gaming towards randomness. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as randomness can very easily create more gameplay with endless unique possibilities. Take The Binding of Isaac, for example, in which the titular character is thrown into a basement with multiple floors. Each floor is laid out like a dungeon from the original Legend of Zelda, and you're occasionally given bombs to blow up walls and keys to open doors with. However, every floor is randomized. That's not to say that you'll immediately spawn in a room with 15 of the toughest enemies of the game, though. The difficulty ramps up as you delve further into the depths, and it feels like a very natural progression with rhyme and reason that could almost feel hand-crafted. In actuality, that rhyme and reason is determined by the game itself. The enemies and bosses you battle, the special equipment you find, and the obstacles that block your path are all determined on the fly, but it's been programmed so well that it doesn't feel like it was. Pretty cool stuff, and I absolutely love The Binding of Isaac!

Recently, a game was released called Cloudberry Kingdom. It was an indie title that began on Kickstarter, but was picked up and published by Ubisoft. The game consists of straightforward, horizontal stages, and you control what looks to be a homeless man with a cape. You run and you jump to evade obstacles and make it to the end of each level, which at first sounds just like something I'd enjoy! However, this game employs randomness to create its stages. If this were a more reasonable type of randomness, as with Binding of Isaac, I think it would be a pretty damn good idea...but every screenshot and video of the game just looks like trash to me. Levels are made completely by use of differing values that seem to be controlled by sliders, for lack of a better word. The more cranked the laser slider is, for instance, the more lasers you're going to see in the stage. This just seems like a cheap, lazy way to increase difficulty to me, and I don't like it.

Some tough nameless stage in Cloudberry Kingdom. See the difference?

The platforming doesn't become more difficult because levels are more deliberately clever and tricky as you go, but rather because they're eventually crammed with so much bullshit flying all over the place that it makes your path to the end nearly impossible to see and maneuver through. Don't get me wrong, I like tough games and especially tough platformers...but I like the stages in platformers to be well-planned out, instead of just a shitstorm of random obstacles launching from every direction. Randomness has its uses, but I'm not a fan of its employment in Cloudberry Kingdom.

What do you think? Am I just being a hypocritical stubborn bastard? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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