Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Kingdom of Arcadia is a throwback to both old school games as well as high school. It has the retro style from those really old games I used to love, at it feels like one of the games I made in high school for my programming class. There’s a lot to say about Kingdom of Arcadia, from the rustic appearance to the same “oof” sound effect that every monster makes. I wouldn’t really call it good, but I definitely wouldn’t call it bad. It just sort of…is.
Sam, our protagonist, loves video games. So does his dad. Turns out his dad has a magic arcade machine that transports Sam into a pixel kingdom. Wonderful parenting, that. Once in the pixel kingdom, the king issues a quest for Sam: retrieve the four magic rods from the guardians turned evil by the evil wizard. So off you go, and with the most anti-climactic “pop” sound I have ever heard, into the portal with you to traverse all five floors floors of each castle and beat up the boss, getting the rods so you can return home.
Kingdom of Arcadia markets itself as a metroidvania title. It…sort of is, I suppose. But let me back up here a second to tell you what it feels like to play KoA. When I said earlier it feels like a game I made in high school, I meant that quite literally: it feels like a group of high school students made it. I’m not talking super computer and programming savvy students either, just “average students”. I mean, that doesn’t make it bad, it just doesn’t really make it a whole lot. It feels like playing something incredibly rudimentary or basic. It does exactly what it is supposed to, but no more and no less. So how does it play then? Well, it’s a 2D platformer, where you traverse five areas per castle to find the exit, then beat a boss. You can jump, swing a comically oversized sword, jump, throw weapons, swim, and swing on vines. There are chests to break open, hidden walls to discover, and switches to use.
There is no map, and backtracking is largely optional unless you take a wrong turn. Upgrades can be purchased for your armour, sword, and throwing weapons, which increase your health, melee attack, and ranged attack respectively. Each stage you progress through may have a wall that you need to throw a switch to move. These are colour coded for your convenience, and come in red, green, or blue. Once hit, the switches stay activated even if you die, making for easy shortcuts if you happen to bite the bullet right in front of an exit door. There are also breakable walls with chests behind them, which contain money, health, ranged ammo, or one possible secret…eyeball ahriman thingy… per level. No idea what the secret monster things actually do though… Either way, coins can be collected and spent on gear upgrades, and each stage is fairly short in itself, at least until the last few.
Kingdom of Arcadia is incredibly short. I literally beat it in one sitting over the span of about 4 hours, including a dinner break, feeding my cat, and helping my Dad move some furniture. The graphics and area designs are interesting and varied enough, and do have that retro feel, but also aren’t really refined in any way. The grammar is also, well, poor, and I was constantly wondering whether or not it was poorly translated, or it was an english game to begin with. The trophies are also pretty dumb, as I got the platinum for the game after clearing the second castle. Furthermore, upon clearing the game, I got a bronze trophy and was told “do it again for a silver”, but wasn’t really given any incentive for it.
There are a bunch of design choices that I’m inclined to label as “questionable”. The secret items being behind some random breakable wall, and the fact you can access your shop from the menu but it just removes you from the level and puts you in the shop being the two major ones. Also, while you can find coins floating around in a stage, they don’t come back, similar to how switches stay flipped. I definitely wouldn’t really call this a metroidvania. A platformer sure, but not really a metroidvania. There isn’t any of that backtracking upgrade searching that I’ve come to love out of metroidvanias, there are no side quests, and as far as I could tell, the secrets don’t even actually do anything? That being said, gameplay is surprisingly smooth and the loading times were fast. Another positive is that the game is cheap, so it is more or less worth what you pay for.