Backlog Attack! – 2019 Challenge – January

Hello Completionists and welcome to Khinjarsis first challenge entry for 2019. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, I recommend you read our intro post and then come back.

As explained in the intro post, Thero and I have picked out our first 3 games for each other to play out of our Steam libraries/backlogs. One of these was Flat Kingdom Paper’s Cut Edition, which I chose as my January game. Here are my thoughts.

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Stats:
Play time: 8 hours
Achievements: Yes – 41/48
Steam Trading Cards: Yes
Enjoyed: Not really
Would recommend?: No – there are much better platformers out there.

Flat Kingdom, first and foremost, is a platformer. I’m not a huge fan of platformers (never have been, with a few exceptions). Whilst overall I don’t think Flat Kingdom was bad, I don’t think it’s memorable or anything super special in platforming.
That being said, let’s go through some thoughts I had while playing.

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Thoughts
Flat Kingdom starts pleasantly with a pop-up book style introduction. Sadly, the narrator (who doesn’t speak again in the game) isn’t great. The pacing and tone were off enough for it to be noticeable and jarring. However, I really liked the art style throughout and elements of the ‘pop-up’ book appeared during the game as bridges sprung out of a flat looking background and platforms popped off the 2D plane.
The setup isn’t anything new in gaming – princess is kidnapped, jewels are stolen and you are the only one who can fix the situation. You are Flat a weird little circular thing, that sort of looked more like an egg than a circle. By the time you leave the tutorial area, you have discovered you can shape-shift (literally), into a square and a triangle. Each shape has different abilities (stop me if you’ve heard this before); square can push heavy objects and body slam buttons but can’t move fast, whilst triangle runs quicker and circle can double jump. The idea of shifting abilities isn’t anything new, but I can’t say many games have me playing as various polygons.

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These shapes are what allows you to solve the environmental puzzles scattered through the game, and what help defeat enemies. Even enemies have shapes and you play with a very basic rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock mechanic to get past them. Owls are based on circles so you must stick them with the pointy end as a triangle to defeat them, and so on. It starts out simple, but by the end you have to switch between shapes quite quickly and it can be frustrating.

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Speaking of frustrating, let’s take a look at boss fights. There’s not really any explanation of why there are these land bosses and sub bosses, but they exist. The first you come across is fairly simple and it is fairly obvious what you must do to defeat it. As I progressed through the game however, I found myself getting more and more frustrated at how obtuse some of the fights were. Although they have predictable attacks, there are no real patterns to the fights, and I found myself winning through luck rather than skill. In the end, I ended up checking a boss guide because I wasn’t enjoying the unnecessary riddles.
The levels themselves, meanwhile, weren’t overly taxing, although they also didn’t add anything new to the genre. There’s a forest level, a water level, a fire level and a snowy level, each with their own typical puzzles and obstacles – lava/high winds/dangerous fish to name but a few.

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My major bugbear with the game is that I was given no real reason to continue, other than I wanted to get it done for the challenge. The story you briefly get at the beginning isn’t really mentioned again until after a boss fight where you get a quick chat with the villain. Even at the end of the game, the final cut scenes don’t really add much and I certainly didn’t feel like I achieved anything or helped save the world. Before you even get to the final boss, you have to return to all the previous levels to find a secret path that will allow you to get to the final level. All well and typical, but there was no reason given as to why this had to happen. Why are the things you need so scattered around and hidden away until the moment you need them?
During this search for the hidden things, I found a minecart section. Of course, I had to do it to get the secret thing, but this was a new mechanic to the game, that came out of nowhere and functioned differently to the rest of the game.

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Final opinion
You can probably tell I wasn’t overly impressed with Flat Kingdom, and I would agree with that conclusion. Whilst it wasn’t terrible, and would probably do well as a handheld game, it felt too Nintendo-y for my liking, and added nothing to the platforming genre. I wouldn’t have completed it if it wasn’t for the challenge, and I wouldn’t really recommend it except perhaps as an introduction to platforming or gaming more generally.

Join me next month for my thoughts on the game I chose for February – Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride.

All the images in this post are screenshots from Khin’s playthrough, but all rights etc belong to the creators.

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