In a nutshell: Farmville + Pikmin + an extra helping of cute.
Posted by Kyle Orland (September 28, 2010)
Games for Lunch chronicles the first hour of a different game every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each hour ends with the answer to the only question that matters at that point: Do I want to keep playing? For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions.
Developers: Cing, Town Factory
Publisher: Xseed Games
Release Date: July 21, 2009
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site
In a nutshell: Farmville + Pikmin + an extra helping of cute.
0:00 I remember hearing surprisingly good things about this one when it hit last year, and it just now finally came up on my Netflix queue. High hopes abound as a trumpet fanfare and little shadow puppets dance around the preview screen.
0:01 A tinny a capella choir sings over the title screen. A velvet curtain pulls back to reveal two small puppets on popsicle sticks dancing about. "I am more noble than you, and he is more noble than me? The rich are more noble than the poor and those who work hard are more noble than the lazy? Than who is most noble of them all." Heady stuff...
0:02 The camera pans out to reveal a boy playing with the puppets. He follows a family of rats out into the forest, where he finds a magical crown. "They say the boy became a magnificent king, and all people and animals, one and all, they all became his loyal followers. and somehow, in some such way, the boy was no longer lonely." The art style and the voice-over narration are incredibly endearing. I just want to melt..
0:04 "Pomp and Circumstance" plays over options screen for some reason. I turn the difficulty up to Hard because I assume the game is tuned for little kids.
0:05 I choose a "random" file name and get the title "King Xerxes." As I start a new game I'm treated to some soaring music over shots of nature rendered in dreamy pastels. "This is our kingdom, the kingdom of Alpoko. Let's go inside your castle. It's a little slapdash, but isn't it grand nonetheless?" This is all through subtitles of the game's Simlish-style language, unfortunately. The title appears for the third time in five minutes...
0:07 "Though the king may be small, the story of his life is anything but," says the narrator. And with that I'm in control to jazzy trumpet music. Howser the bull knight says he believes me to be the true king, concluding his 35 yer earch. Liam the Magnificent Anything Minister will teach me how to play. Verde will save my game and says I look adorable. AND SHE'S RIGHT!
0:09 Howser gives a summary of our kingdom's situation: 3 ministers, 3 cows, 12 citizens, an empty treasury. To fill the treasury, He suggests "Treasure Hunting" using "Carefree Adults." If I get 100,000 Bol, the kingdom will prosper.
0:10 The background song has transitioned to an instrumental version of "Cheese Roll Call" from Pinky & the Brain. Yes, I know that's not where the tune is from originally, but I can't help but hear that version in my head.
0:11 Liam gives me the Tutorial, at my request. I can chat and then recruit citizens into to my group, then send them into battle or work using some simple targeting. This is all illustrated with some cute chalk drawings.
0:14 Carefree adults are only good for digging holes, I'm told, because they are "barenaked." Also, as soon as I walk outside, I encounter "Mr. M. The naked musician... something like that." What is this game rated again?
0:15 Quote of the moment: "It feels great when you feel the music on your skin... something like that."
0:16 "Carefree Rock: Hit it hard enough and you'll remember the time you were carefree." Oh, yeah, sure, everyone has one of those.
0:17 I cross the bridge away from my castle and the first carefree adult I run into tells me she "specializes in nothing" and thinks "work is for suckers." Boy, she sounds like a PERFECT first recruit, don'tcha think?
0:18 Caden doesn't want to be poor, but doesn't want to work either. Mike will work only if he can be a wizard, swordsman, or "super doctor." Lyrica is "just trying to get by." Aidan insults the king as a "midget" to his face. These kind of relateable motivations for the NPCs aren't strictly necessary, but they're nice anyway.
0:20 My party of five carefree adults can't chop down the log blocking my path, but they can dig up some gold coins in a nearby hole. I'm getting quite the Pikmin vibe, here.
0:22 Wow, these carefree adults really are quite useless. They can't even open the doors to the few houses dotting my tiny kingdom.
0:24 Liam suggests I examine my treasure from my throne, so I guess that's what I'll do. The gold coins were worth 10,000 Bol. Getting there...
0:25 I throw my team into a nearby well, where they excitedly tell me the water tastes great but looks cloudy. Updates as warranted.
0:27 Found another hole hiding behind some trees in the foreground, and yet another under some breakable bushes. The latter has a HUGE bag of coins inside it. Well, it's a start.
0:30 The bag and the coins get me up to 100,000 Bol, and earn me some trumpets and confetti. Now it's time to develop our kingdom from what Howser calls a "kingdom of indolence." I can decide to build a farmhouse for hardworking farmers or a guard house for grunt soldiers. Farming is boring... bring on the grunts!
0:33 Fade to black to represent one night's rest. When I wake, Liam teaches me to throw people into job house to employ them, and explains I can heal them with a nap or a soak in the hot springs. If only it were so simple in real life...
0:35 I re-recruit some citizens, including one who thinks the kingdom deserves "100 points out of 100," and another who says she wants to make something of herself. I love that all these little guys have their own motivations! They all don these extremely cute, overly large golden helmets to show that they're now SERIOUS SOLDIERS GRRRR.
0:37 A team of soldiers takes out the log blocking my path, netting me some lumber. They also turn a field of turnips just outside the gates into collectible "Good Turnips." outside the gates. The rhythmic chopping is incredibly relaxing.
0:39 One turnip actually sprouts legs and walks towards my tiny soldiers. I call them back and set them on the attack! He goes down fast, leaving a nice turnip carcass to collect.
0:40 My loyal soldiers chop down a giant log to get access to a giant "Shining Turnip." I sure hope turnips are worth more in this world than they are in real world.
0:41 The next giant turnip I dig up actually turns into three mobile enemy turnips. My soldiers are damaged slightly taking them out. Aww, poor cute little soldiers.
0:43 The lighting effects here are worth commenting on. Bright, shining yellow beams from the sky illuminate specific areas, drawing the attention where it's needed. Just beautiful.
0:47 I've split up my soldiers, sending three to shop some wood and two others to dig up some turnips. I wish I could take control of more soldiers at once. I also wish they were a bit faster at their jobs...
0:50 As night falls, I go chop some driftwood on the newly opened "Over-there Beach." I'm finding new holes everywhere, but my soldiers can't dig them... need to get some carefree adults on that, soon.
0:53 When the night transitions to its pitch black stage, the air fills with some tiny flying frogs. I sic a soldier on one, and he gets hurt taking it out. I try to head back towards the castle, but I am all turned around.
0:54 Scooting by a sleeping cow this late at night awakens the beast, turning it into a red-eyed, rampaging "Rodeo Cow." Yipe!
0:55 I finally dodge enough flying frogs and ambulatory turnips to make it back to the castle. When I sit on the throne, I find the assorted crud I've collected is worth 1,503,000 Bol! Holy hell, are these turnips made of gold? I spend 90,000 Bol of my largess on a farmhouse.
0:57 Howser still says we have a "puny, insignificant little kingdom." After a night of thinking he can't come up with a good plan for further expansion, but he does suggest a "town square" where citizens will be able to make suggestions. It's only 1.2 million Bol (or twelve hundred thousand Bol, as the game puts it), which I just happen to have on hand! He suggests I go to sleep and wait for suggestions to come in, despite the fact that I just woke up. It's good to be the king!
0:59 Overnight, the game shows me a tiny soldier walking up and dropping a suggestion in the box. I'll have to read it next hour...
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Not much real strategy or action, so far, but I get the sense the game is building to something more substantial. Plus the art and sound design are so endearing that I don't really mind it's been super-simple to raise those numbers.
This review was based on a retail version rented from Gamefly.
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