Cloudberry Kingdom revels in the kind of split-second precision platforming that can turn even the most bashful of players into a rage-spitting, controller-hurling mess. Each one of its intelligent, procedurally generated levels is a lesson in patience and unwavering dexterity, making you fight for every coin, stomped enemy, and miraculous escape from a wall of deadly spinning blades and vicious spikes. The rewards for doing so aren't measured in measly unlockables, or mere high scores, but in the satisfaction of a job well done. Yes, success doesn't come easily in Cloudberry Kingdom, but knowing that you've worked yourself to the bone to achieve something that perhaps no one else has is a wonderful thing.
That's not to say such attractions are obvious at first glace. Cloudberry Kingdom's visuals hark back to a time of 56K modems, GeoCities websites, and--most importantly--dodgy Macromedia Flash games. It's overly flat and overly simplistic, and the animation looks like someone is awkwardly shuffling cardboard cutouts around the screen. But it's easy to see past that when you pick up a controller. Bob, as your character is known, is a very responsive chap. And while he lacks the defined weighty feel of a Mario or Meat Boy, he moves with a precision that makes nailing those all-important split-second jumps and tight midair manoeuvres a pleasure.
That's a good thing, too, because Cloudberry Kingdom gets very challenging, very quickly. Sure, the first few levels put just a handful of moving platforms between you and victory, but you're soon faced with performing lightning-fast perfect runs over precariously placed enemies and saw traps. Repetition and muscle memory secure the path to victory, so while each level may last only a few seconds, once you nail it, expect to spend a great deal longer leaping to your death and meticulously practicing each and every jump to get there.
It's an intoxicating feeling when you overcome the seemingly impossible, and the uniqueness of each procedurally generated level makes victory taste all the more sweet. The level generator is impressive, and you rarely feel like a level has just been spat out of a computer at random; there's always just the right number of jumps to make and obstacles to avoid in just the right places to offer up a challenge. It's the frequency and density of those things that increase as you move up the levels, culminating in challenges where you're bouncing off multiple enemies in a row above bottomless pits, ducking below electrified spinners, and squeezing between double rows of spikes in seconds flat.
And just when you think you've got it nailed, Cloudberry Kingdom throws new abilities into the mix. These range from the classic, such as a double jump, through to the absurd, like being stuck inside a cardboard box or on a rocket-powered trolley. All of them completely change the dynamics of the game, with the level generator creating excellent unique challenges for each ability. If you're plonked onto a pogo stick, for example, platforms are made smaller and higher to make them trickier to reach. A Bob that fluctuates in size means you have to time your jumps carefully; the more nimble mini-Bob can reach platforms farther away, while Fat Bob's larger frame can manage only short hops. There's even a spaceship mode that apes a fiendishly difficult 2D shooter, complete with hundreds of enemies to quickly zip around.
The quick-fire nature of these abilities and the sheer difficulty of the levels do inevitably cause some frustration, but it's never in question that it's your own skills at fault, rather than flawed game design. In Story mode (although the wafer-thin princess-kidnap plot can barely be classified as a story), you're given unlimited lives, which ensures that with enough determination, you can make it to the finish. It also prepares you well for the tougher Arcade mode, where you're given a set number of lives and a high score to chase. Coins scattered around each level award you with more lives if you collect enough and have the added benefit of pointing out a path, even if it isn't always the simplest.
Even trickier is Time Attack mode, where you need to collect coins to add precious seconds to the clock. Games are short, but incredibly tense and fast-paced, and are great for a quick burst of action. Hero Attack ups the ante even further, with each timed level adding in a new ability for you to work with. If you're really after a challenge, though, try playing the game in local co-op. While you can't smack each other around like you can in, say, Rayman Origins, the extra characters onscreen, coupled with the sheer busyness of each level, means you spend most of the time wondering what the hell is going on. This mode is fun for a while, but it doesn't lend itself well to the trial-and-error approach you need to make it through a level, and tests even your most patient friends.
Still, who needs friends when you've got as tight a single-player platforming experience as Cloudberry Kingdom? The game is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure, with a "just one more go" feel that makes it incredibly hard to tear yourself away. Plus, with an ever-changing set of levels, it has a replay value that few in the genre can match. Sure, Cloudberry Kingdom doesn't look like much, and there are moments when you'll want to tear your hair out in frustration, but that warm, fuzzy feeling of satisfaction and reward makes putting up with that frustration more than worth it.'