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By Matt Hawkins . July 9, 2013 . 2:00pm
Nestled among all the big first-party releases that adorned Niintendo’s E3 booth was a modest-looking little indie game called Cloudberry Kingdom. According to Pwnee Studios’ TJ Lutz, the game’s main designer, it’s the very first platformer in which every single level is randomly generated.
It’s a game that’s been a long time coming, and in more ways than one. Cloudberry Kingdom has been in development since 2009, and was created originally for a game jam of some kind. The team members knew they were onto something, and began building upon its original foundations. Eventually, they decided to follow the lead of other burgeoning developers and launch a Kickstarter, one that was successful.
And very soon, as in later this summer, it’ll be coming to a console or PC near you. Cloudberry Kingdom is slated to appear on the Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita (both Sony versions will support Cross Buy, by the way), and Steam.
When asked what the game’s primary inspiration was, I was told that it was Super Mario Bros 3, with a dash of Super Meat Boy, although a little bit was taken from virtually all platformers out there, according to Lutz.
The Mario 3 connection is definitely present. While it lacked the forward scrolling and platforms that give way, it did definitely feel like some of the stages that takes place high in the sky. Another key selling point is the insane difficulty, though the demo stage that was present at the show floor was dialed back quite a bit on that regard. Make no mistake, though—hardcore platformer fans will be the ones who truly enjoy this game.
There’s a single player mode, although multiplayer is supported and encouraged. You have an adventure mode, which apparently does have a few pre-determined stages, but everything else, like the arcade mode, is all randomly generated once again.
Jordan Fisher, the game’s main programmer, has spent years developing a special form of artificial intelligence, the heart and soul of Cloudberry Kingdom. As you play one level, in the background, the next one is being assembled. It also analyzes one’s play habits, to create not just random stages, but ones engineered specifically to stymie you. Though, while playing with three other players, I was surprised to discover that their actions had no bearing on mine.
I figured it would be competitive like in New Super Mario Bros. U, but that’s not the case. However, in one of the modes, you can be connected to another player with a bungee cord, so if one person screws up, it will impact his/her partner.
My one big question was the art style; Cloudberry Kingdom’s visuals made me think it was Korean in origin, and not just a bunch of dudes in New York City. According to Lutz:
“We get that a lot actually! But yeah, the art was inspired by Castle Crashers… as in, we wanted a very friendly, approachable looking game. Though it’s meant to be ironic, so it’s supposed to seem all nice and approachable, yet is actually intense. But yeah, we hope we explode in Korea!”