‘Little King’s Story” is very difficult to properly describe. It’s a “Pikmin”-esque real-time strategy game with greater emphasis on its RPG elements, but to leave it at that would be doing it a disservice.
“Little King’s Story” places a clear focus on style and breadth of gameplay over traditional depth, gradually giving the player a slew of classes and upgrades to work with at a comfortable pace. The player only has two commands, advance and retreat, but different party formations are unlocked over time. Loads of sidequests are always available, but completing the main campaign can take less than 10 hours. Each boss fight plays out differently from the rest, but most are relatively easy.
The many departures from typical game design present give “Little King’s Story” a good deal of its charm, and make it more approachable to nongaming audiences and children than other, more traditional titles, even within the same vein as “Pikmin.” Given that the entire game is reliant on its flair and scope, this works greatly to its benefit.
The all-important plot is simple: you play as a boy who finds a magical crown, becoming a king. With the aid of your subjects, you attempt to depose seven other kings and achieve world domination. Being written by offbeat game director Yoshiro Kimura, the broad strokes of the story are mainly a framework for delivering a charming world and musings about life, with small details being the focus.
Though there are times when it tackles serious subjects (imperialism, various severe vices, religion, manipulative friendships, polygamy and divorce, to name a few), the depth and strange realism of the game world are the most impressive features of “Little King’s Story.” Villagers will quit their jobs if you sleep in every day, and can have weddings or funerals. Enemies will use hula-hoops and tote around dragon heads to attack. Bosses will sulk in their arenas after you defeat them. There are dozens of collectibles, all connected to specific characters with their own homes and personalities. Chefs will make short work of chickens, miners will defeat golems in one hit and so on. These little bits of spice lend most of the game’s unique and light-hearted personality, which makes the darker moments all the more impactful, and leads the player to wonder whether the presence of giant Lego blocks in the overworld means anything.
The visual motifs of “Little King’s Story” match its tone, featuring bobble-headed caricatures, themed environments, and a painterly aesthetic backed by buckets of bloom. The major issue on the audiovisual front is the soundtrack, which, while not bad on its own, wears out its welcome upon repeated visits to areas. Every song is a remix of a classic tied to a location or boss fight, which can get obnoxious on the second or third play. I elected to mute my television and play my own music in the background, which let me fall into a sort of relaxing trance while playing.
I suppose the best way to play “Little King’s Story” as an adult is to treat it as an abstract emotional experience, finding peace in ticking off checklists and discovering new parts of the world. I certainly would’ve loved it as a kid, and I liked it a lot more than “Dandy Dungeon”; I hope the memory of playing it lasts a long time.
Gaget is a student in Fairbanks public schools, and has developed six games, all of which are featured in the compilation Rong Wrong November ‘19. He is a neutral game reviewer.