The joys of any form of entertainment is the ability to lose yourself in it. Rich characters, insane plots, glamorous locations, and amazing effects transport us to faraway places. From our mundane existence, we can suddenly become; scientists, astronauts, superheroes, or the saviour of a kingdom. Yet, we know that this is an illusion, and once the end credits roll, we are back to our everyday routine. Imagine if that didn’t happen. What would you do if you were sucked into that universe? Imagine no more, as Kingdom of Arcadia does just that.
Developed by Spoonbox Studios and published by Eastasiasoft Limited, this is a retro pixelated RPG with a comical twist. The game follows many tried and tested mechanics, creating a familiar style that fans of old-school gaming will love. Starting off easy, and becoming gradually tougher, this will suck you in and then spit you out.
Kingdom of Arcadia doesn’t take itself too seriously.
From the opening scene it’s clear that Kingdom of Arcadia is lighthearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The characters mock the pixelated graphics, and its reliance on classic game mechanics. It was refreshing to see a developer joke about its core concept. It follows a simple principle; five worlds, each with five stages and five end bosses to overcome. Once you’ve gotten through that, you’ll be the saviour, and all will be well with the world.
The simplicity doesn’t stop there. The story revolves around Sam, a “normal” lad who loves his computer games. His dad is obsessed with retro gaming. He loves his prized possession, an arcade machine. Sam knows that he may only play when on it when he’s ready. He lacks patience, and one day he is left home alone. Seeing an opportunity, he takes his chance to play on this arcade classic. This was a big mistake. The machine whirrs into life and sucks him into the pixelated world. You now become the protagonist in a standard old-school plot. The world is in danger, an evil wizard wishes to claim the sceptres and if he’s successful, the Kingdom will be his to control.
Death and upgrades.
You can’t be too proud when playing this. Death is guaranteed, no matter how good you are. The difficulty is set in such a way that you must upgrade your equipment otherwise your progress is thwarted. You may think that this is unfair, and it should be your choice to play as you wish. Luckily, nothing prevents you from trying with the basic gear, but you’ll be in for an unpleasant experience if you attempt it.
Upgrading is as easy as collecting the coins on every stage. Enemies generously drop loot, and money is found in every room. You’ll also find chests loaded with loot to pay for your new equipment. Obtaining new gear is slow work and a bit of a grind. But it’s well balanced to ensure that you don’t romp through the worlds. You may; improve armour for extra health, increase the strength of your throwing weapon, and improve your sword. The upgrades don’t make the game easy, per se, they simply ensure the action stays on an even keel.
I really enjoyed getting back to the roots of the genre, but the action was repetitive. New mechanics were drip fed into the gameplay, such as; cannons, water sections, balloons, vines to swing on, and locked doors with switches. Sadly, these new elements didn’t add enough variety to overcome the distinct feeling of deja vu. It didn’t taint the experience, I simply wanted more to get my teeth into. However, my biggest gripe was with the enemies that you face, and the mini and main bosses.
Variety is the spice of life. Yet, at least when it came to enemies, Kingdom of Arcadia lacked a kick. Many of the enemy models were similar, and each used a familiar movement pattern. So, learning how to defeat them was easy. This sadly continued with every boss you faced. I found that spamming the attack button as quickly as possible annihilated each one in no time. You did not need to think of a tactic to defeating them as victory was all but assured.
I wish Spoonbox Studios had created more unique creatures, as this would have increased the longevity, and would have added a tactical layer to the gameplay. It was all too easy to slash your sword and jump over bullets. It makes it accessible to lower skilled gamers, but everyone else will be frustrated at its simplicity.
I enjoy when a game takes you on a journey across a variety of elements, and Kingdom of Arcadia did just that. You will face many dangers associated which each world, and a distinct, vivid colour palette helps to emphasise the atmosphere and feel of each environment. The pixelated sprites have a modern edge with a high level of detail. Each of the stages becomes increasingly more complex, and you will lose yourself among the maze-like platforms.
The drama and tension were told through the many songs that were used in each world. The simple tunes played out in an upbeat fashion, making you feel under pressure. This aggressive soundtrack matched the constant threat of enemies that you faced. In reality, you could take your time and slowly avoid each obstacle. Yet, I got swept away in the moment and allowed the music to get my adrenaline pumping. The basic sound effects were used well, even if the odd grunting from Sam was off putting and unnecessary.
A simple to play Metroidvania style game.
Metroidvania type games are rarely considered simple to play, but Kingdom of Arcadia bucks this trend. With few commands to master, you’ll be jumping over traps and killing enemies like the best of them. Your only risk of failure is rushing around with a lack of a plan. The gentle learning curve allows you to get used to the mechanics without being thrown into the deep end.
With 30 stages to play, many bosses to overcome, and lots of hidden collectables, this has a reasonable amount of replay value. However, once you have collected everything, upgraded all your gear, and killed the bosses, there is little reason to return. This would have been a speedrunners dream, and would have bumped the difficulty up considerably. The ease with which you unlock the achievements sadly doesn’t add any further reasons to return either.
Does Kingdom of Arcadia stand out against its peers?
There is definitely more going for Kingdom of Arcadia, than there is going against it. Its repetitive gameplay holds it back, as does its lack of unique monsters. The colourful pixelated graphics, simple but well designed audio, and balanced approach make it a title worth playing. For these reasons, I recommend you buy it here! Sam just wanted to play his dad’s arcade machine. From that day, his world changed, and now he must become the hero of a pixelated Kingdom. Can you gather the sceptres and save the day?