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Little King's Story

Score: 83%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Cing, Inc.
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ Simulation/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Little King's Story aims for artistic appeal rather than attempting to match the HD visuals found on other systems. It won't "wow" anyone from a technical standpoint, but it is hard to not appreciate the game's simple charm and details. Everything is bright and incredibly upbeat. The only thing I didn't like was the "smudge" filter covering the screen. I'm pretty sure it's an attempt to create a painterly appearance, but it just looked like someone rubbed Vaseline all over my screen.

The entire soundtrack is culled from public-domain classical pieces. Even if you are not an avid fan of the classical works, you would be hard-pressed to find something in the game's soundtrack you haven't already heard. I'm not the biggest fan of this direction, but everything fits together well enough, so I can't complain much. I will, however, complain about the use of "gibberish" in place of voicework. Yeah, it adds character but I still don't like it.


Gameplay:

Little King's Story is a contradiction of itself. The cute characters and bright visuals would likely lead someone to believe it is another kid-friendly Wii title. Once you break into the game, it's anything but. The kid-friendly appearance gives way to darker, or even controversial themes, like religion and world domination.

Little King's Story centers on Corobo, a timid boy who finds a crown and is immediately named king despite his lack of experience. His appointment is propped up by a team of advisors: Liam, Verde and Howser, the Dick Cheney of the group whose advising rarely goes beyond using swords as a diplomatic tool. Corobo's reign begins with making loyal subjects from the kingdom's shiftless populace. The King's crown allows him to effortlessly impose his will on adults, forcing them to take jobs and work for the Socialist ideal of a powerful kingdom.

It might be good to be the King, but running a kingdom is hard work. Little King's Story keeps you constantly busy with a barrage of quests. Quests tend to run into each other, so you're constantly moving forward and engaged. At the same time, it is really hard to find a stopping point when you want to quit. Smaller quests offer some sense of closure, but for better or worse, once you're into the main quest line, it is hard to pull yourself away.

Quests all tie into the game's overall goal of creating a good quality of life for your subjects. Everything revolves around money. You begin with a small hovel, a handful of subjects and limited resources. You eventually earn the ability to build farms, generating a small economy. As you clear monsters from your lands, your kingdom expands, allowing more room for growth. More buildings mean a healthier economy, unlocking newer buildings and, more importantly, upgrades for your subjects. Eventually, your lands aren't enough - leading to aggressive negotiations (read: military expansionism) into other kingdoms.


Difficulty:

Little King's Story is frustrating. Despite the questionable controls, the underlying mechanics are easy enough to grasp. Train a few workers, explore and expand. As your kingdom grows, the core mechanics understandably grow in complexity. More jobs mean more opportunities and options, forcing you to really think about the cadre of soldiers following you. You eventually get a feel for what you'll need, but until then, expect a lot of backtracking as you enter a new region, find you need a certain job type and head back to the homestead to pick them up.

Military conquest is even harder. When attempting to overthrow rival kings, Little King's Story almost forces failure on you until you "crack the code." It's a bit like an old-style arcade shooter; once you figure out when to dodge and when to shoot, you're golden. Until then, however, you're doomed to a vicious cycle of attempts and defeats.

Taken alone, these issues are workable and even acceptable. However, bad is made worse when the save system is tossed into the mix. You can only save at your castle, so if you're out in the wild, you'll either need to make the journey back to your castle or hope for the best. I haven't done the math, but I'm fairly certain I spent just as much time fruitlessly retreading areas as I did exploring new areas and moving forward.


Game Mechanics:

Similar to Pikmin or Overlord, you have direct control over the King and command your subjects to perform duties based on their job types. Little King's Story is more Pikmin than Overlord, but it shares ideas from both - well, most of them anyway. One of the more questionable design decisions is the absence of Wii-specific controls. The point-and-click interface seems like a natural fit for the game's mechanics, yet the game opts for an Analog Stick directed method. It works well enough, but is puzzling nevertheless.

A press of the button lets you grab a subject and, after aiming with the analog stick, toss them towards a goal. For instance, throwing a villager at a barracks turns them into a soldier while tossing a miner at a mine puts them to work. It's a simple system, but the lack of pointer controls makes it infinitely harder than it should be. If a subject hits his location, he'll go about his work. Otherwise, he'll run back, ready for another toss. It may not sound like a major deal, but go back and play Overlord or "new play control" Pikmin and you'll see the difference.

Little King's Story is engaging and fun, but whenever I stepped away from the game, I found myself wondering if I was really having fun, or just letting my completionist drive and the game's charm make me THINK I was having fun. Quests and goals keep you constantly moving forward, so you want to succeed and finish your cities. At the same time, the unnecessary "clunk" gets in the way. For me, it was an example of progressive thinking running into the brick wall of "how we've always done it," or at least a refusal to change.

I like Little King's Story enough to recommend it for Wii owners looking for the system's "the next big thing." However, in a completely contradictory tone, I also stop short at declaring Little King's Story the systems "next big thing". Despite its faults, Little King's Story is a fun game, but feels more like a stop on the Yellow Brick Road rather than the Emerald City of Oz.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated