By Jason Quinn / January 25th, 2017
|Publisher||Plug In Digital, WhisperGames|
|Release Date||December 8th, 2016|
|Platform||PC, Android, iOS|
|Age Rating||ESRB E for Everyone|
Pocket Kingdom is a puzzle platformer from the developer 08 Games. The game’s story starts out with the protagonist named Tim Tom offered a job to take some pictures of a flying island. He’s hesitant at first, but some creditors knocking on his door convinces him to accept the job. He hops on his airship in search of floating islands and before long, he crashes on one, rendering his airship totaled. Now he must find some means of escaping this island known as Pocket Kingdom, but as he soon finds out, it may not be so simple.
Pocket Kingdom soon takes an eldritch twist, as you find out the island is enchanted by some god and escape is next to impossible. Not only that, but there are traps and obstacles strewn throughout the island, making getting around rather troublesome.
Visually, Pocket Kingdom has a retro, pixel art look that’s quite pleasing to the eye. There’s a handful of environments with different color palettes, but many areas do look rather samey. The soundtrack consists of nice chiptune music with both relaxing and upbeat tunes that fit the environment you are in.
The gameplay consists of walking around rooms similar to a metroidvania, usually requiring solving some puzzle to proceed. The only way to advance to the next room is a ladder or door, as walking off screen simply puts you on the other side of the same room. This is all addressed by the story as being part of the god’s enchantment. Puzzles are usually figuring out ways to navigate around lasers, the primary obstacle. This requires using boxes to block off lasers, using switches that raise and lower blocks around the room, and even a thing that switches around your gravity, enabling you to walk on ceilings. There are also occasionally some locked doors and areas, requiring a key in order to continue.
Despite technically being a platformer, there is no traditional jumping in this game. Instead, you can climb up blocks. There are also items you can get that effect your movement. These include boots that enable you to climb blocks higher than you, and a grappling hook that can pull you across gaps as well as pull boxes towards you. Another upgrade you find is a rocket launcher that can push blocks far away from you.
The mechanics are pretty simple but the puzzles are engaging enough, with a handful of them requiring some careful thought. Each puzzle room is different from the last, which keeps the challenge fresh. One minor issue I had towards the latter end of the game is that sometimes puzzles have some extra lasers, blocks, or switches that really don’t come into play, causing you to sometimes overthink the solution. That said, every time you figure a solution out, it’s pretty satisfying. The puzzles make good and clever use of the simple mechanics the game has. There’s also lots of optional places to explore. Thanks to an item you get that allows you to warp to any room, exploration is quite easy.
The story started out very interesting with old gods and enchanted islands. However, most of this doesn’t really serve any purpose other than some added flavor, which was kind of disappointing. Throughout the game, you don’t really learn many specifics as to what’s going on. The ending also felt rather abrupt and unsatisfying. Many of these story elements seem to be totally separate from the experience. If the game was simply about crashing on an island and escaping, it would feel almost exactly the same.
The narrative never feels like it’s really building up to anything, and there’s no climactic events that happen. There’s also no real antagonist to the story at all, so there’s never any sense of conflict. Because of this, the game feels very one-note. There are no highs and no lows, it’s a pretty even experience throughout and there’s no grand narrative at work here. Fortunately, at least the puzzles do ramp up in complexity over the course of the game.
Despite my qualms with the story, I feel the gameplay is still pretty solid. Most of the puzzles are genuinely clever and well designed. The game took me about 4 hours to beat, and that’s including all of the optional areas as well. Pocket Kingdom is only $7, so if you’re looking for something quick to slake your thirst for puzzles, this ought to do the job.
Review copy provided by the publisher
08 GamesandroidiosPCPlug In DigitalPocket KingdomPuzzle PlatformerWhisperGames