Sam is just an everyday, terribly average ordinary kid who loves videogames and whose dad just happens to possess a vintage arcade machine. Sam impatiently jumps the gun and powers up the machine without dads approval and wouldn’t you know it, the arcade machine is special and Sam is no longer in Kansas.
Welcome to the Kingdom of Arcadia, whose inhabitants know that they are made of pixels and that Sam isn’t from their world at all. And as such, he’s clearly the only one that can save them. Evil forces have corrupted the land and Sam has to travel to four castles to retrieve magical sceptres. It’s the only way to get home so what’s a terribly average kid in videogame land to do? Grab some armour and a sword of course because he’s clearly trained for this.
Set across four worlds broken up into five levels each – six if you count the boss rooms – Kingdom of Arcadia is a 2D action platformer built as they made them in yesteryear. Though it markets itself as a metroidvania, Kingdom of Arcadia is a far more linear affair with some light exploration and light upgrading elements. Developer Spoonbox Studio has built Kingdom of Arcadia on a very basic core set of systems that, outside of the light upgrade system, doesn’t change.
Sam has three skills: a double jump, a slashing sword attack and a secondary throwing weapon attack. There’s no learning new combos, picking up anti-gravity boots or homing missiles or a hookshot. The levels are designed around these three skills, keeping the game simple, stark and all the better for it. The platforming is absolutely on point and getting hit or missing a jump is usually on you rather than the game. Don’t let the simplicity fool you however, because Kingdom of Arcadia gets quite challenging from the second world onwards.
Levels begin small but grow larger with each world, but not to the extent that one could label it a metroidvania. Usually you’re traversing to one end of the level to hit a switch, or switches, that open the path to the levels exit. Once again, there’s no backtracking between massive areas waiting to find a new sword to open up a new path twenty screens away. Instead the levels play out like mini-dungeons as you traverse dastardly environment hazards and enemies looking to swiss-cheese you.
Kingdom of Arcadia also doesn’t do too much different in what you’re facing in these levels. There are spiked areas, rotating platforms, crumbling platforms, cannons etc. Enemies also follow a familiar archetype, wizards throwing spells, bouncing eyeballs and undead skeletons, most of which are merely reskins unfortunately. Where Kingdom of Arcadia does get it right though, is in the construction of its levels.
The enemies in each level don’t pose a threat on their lonesome but most of the levels are designed around incorporating the combat around the platforming and precision timing. So you’ll have a snowball throwing yeti at the far end of a room but getting to him may require navigating a spike pit along with moving spiked platforms that block your projectile attacks. Making it to him without getting hit becomes an exercise in patience and precision. Rushing it will usually cost you a heart, which you have few enough of already. It’s these moments that are Kingdom of Arcadia’s strong points even if they’re based around patience and pattern recognition.
Death may start you back at the beginning of a level but chests you’ve collected and switches you’ve thrown don’t reset unless you leave the level and come back in so it’s in your best interest to stick it through to the end.
Some levels have mini-bosses in them as well and they’re usually a cakewalk, involving learning their pattern and figuring out when to strike. The main bosses fall into the same category of pattern recognition and patience as well. They’re more challenging than the mini-bosses but aren’t as memorable as they should have been.
Each level has enough secret areas to find. Hidden behind cracked walls they usually contain loot chests which grant money, extra secondary ammo or another valuable heart, all of which are invaluable. Money is extremely important as you need to pay for the upgrades to Sam’s health and damage output. Nicely when upgrading Sam’s armour which grants you more health, it also changes his visual look. The sword grows larger and has a wider hit radius as well, while you’re secondary projectile weapon will change from a knife to an axe to a hammer as you upgrade. The upgrades don’t come cheap though and you will most likely have to farm levels later on so it’s a good thing each enemy drops money when killed.
Visually Kingdom of Arcadia is pleasant enough to look at. The presentation is nice and clean and there’s just enough detail in the sprites to make them charming.
Where Kingdom of Arcadia doesn’t fare as well though is in the writing and sound design. The writing clearly feels like translation issues were at play or it was thrown together at the last minute. It’s not terrible, but it certainly does have shades of old games within it. Less effective are the sound effects which sound as though they were pulled from a free repository. The musical tracks are effective but lack the punch that usually makes 2D platformer soundtracks resonant. They do the job but fade into the background while playing.
Kingdom of Arcadia may not challenge platform and metroidvania experts and while it lacks replayability, what it does provide for the time it will take you to finish it, is a charming and challenging fun action platformer that feels as though it were ripped straight from the golden past of 2D gaming simplicity.
Kingdoms of ArcadiaKingdoms of Arcadia
- Increase in environmental challenge
- Upgrading has a visual effect
- Death is usually your fault
- No real replayability
- Reskinned enemies
- You will have to grind levels to upgrade
- Sound effects could have been better