Preview: Cloudberry Kingdom

Remember a few months back when I said you should check out the Cloudberry Kingdom Kickstarter? Well, those few months are effectively forever in development terms, and the time has been used to not only tweak just about every setting under the sun, but also give the game a complete facelift. The Cloudberry Kingdom of May is looking very different than the Cloudberry Kindgom of November.

The basics have remained the same, though. Cloudberry Kingdom is a procedurally generated platformer, with every level created by the AI in the second before you get to play it. No matter how crazed, twisted, or insane the layout gets, you can hit a button and watch the PC sail through all obstacles without a scratch. Ghost platforms that fade in and out of existence, lasers, swinging obstacles in all shapes and sizes, bouncy blocks, and many, many other obstacles can combine in ways requiring pinpoint precision to get past, and the level designing AI gets utterly ruthless on the highest settings. Thankfully for us mere mortals, the mid-range difficulties provide a nice workout without requiring superhuman reflexes to survive.

Reflex is the name of the game, though, in any of Cloudberry Kingdom’s levels. The random generation means that gameplay is about survival rather than poking around for secrets, a pure platforming experience that focuses on timing and positioning. It does a lot with that, especially by providing a large number of differently-powered heroes to choose from, and the levels are always designed around that hero’s skills. There have been several new types of hero added since May, such as Phase Bob, who changes gravity rather than jumping, but the level AI seems to have gotten far more clever for even the old-guard heroes. Moving blocks are better placed, new obstacles cause new headaches, and enemies are better positioned both to get in the way and use as stepping stones.

All the modes from the first look are all still there, although Story Mode has yet to be unlocked, but Free Play and Arcade are loaded with tons of options. Free Play lets you choose a hero, play with the sliders controlling level design and a few other settings, and go to town with endless variations based on your choices. Arcade has four different types of gaming, staring with an endurance run where each level is harder than the last and ending with a time attack where every new level gets a random combination of character powers to figure out and try to survive with. As for Story Mode, the only details so far is that Pwnee Studios got the husband and wife acting team of Kevin and Sam Sorbo to provide voices.

Six months is a long time in game development terms, especially when it’s the final push to completion. Cloudberry Kingdom was already looking like a fun platformer trying something different back in May, and the time since has been put to good use ironing out the rough edges and applying a complete graphical makeover to every aspect of the game. It’s been fun watching the game come together over time but it’s now November, and almost time to launch. The launch date is a little uncertain at this point, and isn’t helped by Pwnee Studios getting steamrolled by Hurricane Sandy, but whenever it comes out, it will be a welcome addition to the PC and Wii U’s library.

For old time’s sake, this is what it used to look like.