I don't often have a chance to play games before they're officially released, but for the past week I've immersed myself in Little King's Story (due June 23 in North America, PAL version available now). I originally planned to keep quiet about it until closer to its US release, but this little gem has cast a spell on me, and I can't resist writing about it. Consider this a heads-up snapshot of the game; I'm sure I'll return to cover it more thoroughly after some of you have had a chance to play it.
Little King's Story isn't little at all. It's huge, and it hooks you in much the same way Civilization and other "just one more turn" games keep you playing into the wee hours. Your single objective never changes - build, expand, protect your kingdom and its subjects - but the game brilliantly keeps the challenges coming, varies them in terms of gameplay/objectives, and delivers them in humorous self-contained packages that reward without coddling.
Despite its whimsical storybook visuals, Little King's Story isn't a pushover. If you act rashly or fail to plan carefully, your subjects will die...and you'll feel guilty about it. The game strikes a unique balance between silliness and somberness. It ain't easy being King, and this game makes you feel that in variety of interesting ways.
Little King's Story is a wonderfully clever genre mash-up, combining gameplay and mechanical elements from Pikmin, Harvest Moon, and Dragon Quest, with bits of Black & White and Animal Crossing thrown in. The glowing watercolor art style conveys an effervescent world that perfectly suits the game's playful artsy spirit, and its lilting score and elegant controls suggest an extraordinarly high degree of professional fit and finish. This is a gorgeous game, and its parts were clearly designed to fit together and support each other, both practically and aesthetically. Given the team of all-stars that created this game, I suppose none of this is surprising; but as we've seen, assembling an all-star dev team doesn't necessarily assure a great game.
Keep your eyes open for this charming not-so-little real-time strategy, life-simulation, adventure-RPG, god-game called Little King's Story. I once again find myself rooting for a unique and well-designed 3rd-party Wii game, hoping against hope it will find the audience it deserves.
Now, Cing and Marvelous Entertainment: can we please talk about your box art?