A Tragic Tale Of Woe

HIGH Watching a guard hop on top of a murderous turnip, smacking it in the face until it died.

LOW A wealth of bugs and port-related issues plague this release.

WTF Watching my minions continually fail to target their assigned objects.


 

I missed out on Little King’s Story back when it originally released on the Wii. By all accounts it was a largely overlooked gem, beloved by the few people who actually played it. With this PC release, it’s suddenly available to anyone with a half-decent gaming rig,  although given how screwed up this port is, it seems like the Wii version is still the one to opt for if given the choice.

The story begins with the titular Little King setting up his own little kingdom. Things don’t start out well as far as resources go — it’s a dilapidated ‘castle’ no bigger than a shed, with twelve unmotivated citizens and a couple of cows milling around on a patch of shabby farmland. Some serious work is needed to make nearby regions take notice, so it’s up to the Little King to order all his lackeys around and get things underway.

Like any good upper-management overlord, the Little King is incapable of doing anything on his own. He is, to put it bluntly, totally useless without a gaggle of serfs to order around. His chief adviser will set players on a certain task — procure some finances, build a church, and so on — and then it’s time to toddle off and round up some layabouts to get started.

There’s a lot of town building involved in Little King’s Story. Initially the citizens are sedentary, and they’re so unskilled that they can do little more than dig holes with their bare hands. However, after setting up some training buildings and they can be forged into mighty warriors, skilled farmhands, carpenters or the like. Growing turnips or bashing monsters in the face, there’s no task small enough for the King to delegate to his underlings.

It’s easy to see why people must have liked this game back when it released in 2009. It practically oozes charm with bright, cartoony graphics and off-kilter writing that comes across as endearing more often than it doesn’t. The clever use of classical music is pretty great too — there’s a ton of easily-recognizable music from Pomp and Circumstance to Ode to Joy and the William Tell Overture, which all kick in at appropriate times.

There’s also an appealing weirdness to it all. After defeating the first boss — an undead cow with a skull for a face — all my citizens donned capes and danced around the town square in what I can only assume was a terrifying pagan ritual. Apart from this instance, there were a ton of other weird little quirks and happenings that kept things interesting.

So what’s the catch? I already mentioned the catch, and it’s a big one — the PC port has issues, and it’s crammed full of bugs.

The framerate glitches into being a slideshow on a 980, I’ve had it crash without warning at inopportune moments, the 60 frames-per-second option actually comes with a warning that it’s not recommended, and there are widespread reports of other technical weirdness such as audio static bursts and audio cues not playing as intended.

Those issues are terrible, but the real dealbreaker is that the targeting system is, ironically, very hit and miss.

At one point there were some giant turnips poking out of the ground that I needed to farm in order to progress. I’d order my farmers onto them, and they’d start attacking the area beside the turnips, dementedly smashing their tools into the ground around them and getting nowhere. I tried multiple times, checked out a guide to see if I was missing something obvious and then finally watched the same section on YouTube for the Wii version — nope, I was doing everything right, it was just bugged out. The same issue happened elsewhere too, requiring many targets to be assaulted multiple times before my troops would be able to hit them. I even restarted from scratch to see if a new game might clear the problems, but the issue persisted.

In the end, this became such an overwhelming problem that I eventually quit playing. Random crashes, graphical and audio glitches and strange AI pathfinding I could live with, but the complete inability to perform required tasks reliably? It utterly killed my interest in a something I would have otherwise been enjoying. The underlying game is fine, but it’s butchered by an inferior port filled with bugs and glitches, and this is after the first patch had been applied to fix the worst issues.

It’s a crying shame. There’s clearly a game in there that I want to play, filled with cool ideas and interesting quirks, but right now I’d have to dig out the Wii version to experience it without experiencing soul-crushing frustration. If Little King’s Story is ever patched to the point where most of the port-related frustrations are gone, I’d love to give it another shot. As it stands, it’s impossible to recommend due to catastrophic technical issues. Rating: 2.5 out of 10


 

Disclosures: This game is developed by Marvelous Inc and published by Xseed Games. It is currently available on PC and Wii. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game has not been rated for the PC version. However, the Wii version was rated Teen and contained Crude Humor, Mild Cartoon Violence, Suggestive Themes and Use of Alcohol. I can’t personally see much that would freak out younger players other than the quality of the port, but I also didn’t manage to experience the entire game.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The language used in the game is fictional gobbledygook, and therefore always subtitled. It seems that visual information alone is entirely adequate to play through the game, though that may change in the later stages. Or not.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

 

Darren Forman

Darren Forman

Spawned in the wilds of Scotland like some random MMORPG enemy whose sole purpose is to be hunted down and slaughtered for loot, young Darren spent the first fifty years of life eating bark and bears alike in a desperate bid to survive the elements.

The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.

The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.

Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.
Darren Forman

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Wim

I played this game on PC as well and didn’t encounter any technical issues. However I did have problems with the controls. The targeting system just isn’t precise enough and the game doesn’t help you at all. I kept missing the targets and it become too frustrating. I can certainly see how it would work better an the Wii. Pikmin works well so why wouldn’t this game?