What with the likes of MadWorld, The Conduit and House Of The Dead currently spearheading something of a hardcore Wii takeover, it's easy to forget that the house of Nintendo was built not on guns 'n' gore but on cute 'n' cuddly.
Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, Pikmin, Kirby... there's a time and a place for more adult-orientated action, but these are the games that a true Nintendo fan holds dear above any others.
So what with the Wii taking a recent turn for the bleak and bloody, it's great to see a game like Little King's Story come along and remind us exactly why we picked Nintendo over Sega, Sony or Atari back in our formative gaming years.
Beautiful character design; charming narratives; eccentric dialogue; huge, magical worlds to explore; polished, inventive and accessible gameplay; and a hefty challenge that belies a game's cute stylings. It's rare that a game ticks all those boxes in this day and age (especially one not made by Nintendo themselves), but we're happy to report that Little King's Story has come out of nowhere and blown our socks off. A real surprise package, there's a good chance that you won't play a finer videogame this year, first party or otherwise.
King For A Day
A gorgeous, bizarre hand drawn intro sets the scene. A lonely young lad kicks around his bedroom, when a family of rats dash across his floor. He follows them out of the house and into the woods where they lead him to a golden crown hidden in the trees. He puts it on, at which point four mysterious subjects materialise and pronounce him as their long awaited king. It's here that the gameplay kicks in.
Little King's Story is essentially a clever mix of Pikmin, Animal Crossing and Command & Conquer. You start off in a modest little shack with just a handful of followers. Venture outside and toss some of your meagre citizens, Pikmin-style, into any holes in the ground that you come across and they'll dig up some treasure. Take the treasure back to your right hand man in the 'castle' and he'll convert it into cash which you can then spend on building a farmhouse. Direct a citizen inside and they'll become a farmer capable of digging at cracks in the soil, uncovering yet more bounty.
This loot can then be used to build a Guard House, where you can train your subjects up as soldiers and then lead them out into the surrounding areas to start exploring and expanding your kingdom.
As your realm expands, citizens will start dropping 'quests' into a Suggestion Box in the town square, asking you to throw out trouble makers or take on 'guardians' causing chaos in a peripheral region of your domain. To gain control of their territory you'll obviously have to give these guardians a pasting. The combat works exactly as it does in Pikmin. You toss your soldiers at your foe and let them get on with it, while you watch for signs of a counterattack, at which point you recall them and take cover.
Defeat a guardian and you'll be rewarded with more cash, which you can use to develop their turf. As you continue to expand your kingdom you'll find various geographical obstacles standing in your way. You'll have to save up enough money to construct the necessary building in which to train your subjects as carpenters (to build bridges or staircases), miners (to remove boulders) or lumberjacks (to remove tree stumps). You can also construct buildings to train new soldier types, such as archers, wizards or veteran grunts, to take on bigger, badder foes.