I’ve spent 7 years searching for the True King. I think he’s waiting for me back in 2009.
(Update (8/10/2016): Some tweaks have been made to the game, and the developers are currently working to fix the performance issues. If a subsequent patch is released that fixes them, I’ll update this accordingly.)
So, there’s this game, right? It’s supposed to be good. Damn good. It’s cute, entertaining, and supposed to suck you in for hours at a time.
The reviews have sung its praises far and wide, and people I knew who played it swore by it, wondering why I didn’t put down my umpteenth horror outing or Sonic the Hedgehog sequel and try it out already.
Well, I finally had an excuse to do just that, since it was ported to the PC. I spent a few hours with it, played around, even started a new file twice…
…and I’m going to invest twenty bucks in getting Little King’s Story for the Wii.
Okay, let me back up a bit.
Little King’s Story is a puzzle-strategy game that was released on the Wii in 2009, to overall good reviews. And you know what: for once, I agree with the consensus. The graphics are cute and appealing, the strategy gameplay is simple but addicting, and there’s enough charm to win over even the most cynical of gaming grumpuses.
Sure, it has a few issues. The soundtrack is probably the most glaring, with famous classical pieces (like…”Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” famous) and bland tracks that feel less like intentional choices and more like public-domain stand-ins that were kept around because the developers ran out of time to complete the score. The story, while cute and serviceable, isn’t going to set the world on fire, using the King’s line of sight to aim is a little awkward, and the fact that the game centers around a young boy’s empowerment fantasy (including rescuing princesses who randomly fall in love with him) might be offputting for some people.
Still, for its stumbling points, it gets a lot right, and nothing was enough to make me think that Little King’s Story was a bad game. The witty writing (including moments of cynical satire, if you’re the type to look for that sort of thing) had me in stitches, and I genuinely found myself enjoying the characters and the world I was in. I legitimately wanted to keep playing, once I got a feel for it.
If you’re wondering why I’m glossing over…well, the game, it’s because there’s already a version of it readily available on the Wii, and plenty of people have already talked about it at-length. Seriously, buy it. It’s a ton of fun and you won’t be disappointed, despite the irritating soundtrack and slow start.
The PC port, on the other hand…
This is where someone puked in the apple pie.
First, let’s talk optimization. Even on a higher-end PC, Little King’s Story is chock-full of frame drops and performance issues. The suggested frame limit is 30 fps, where it runs pretty close to the Wii version, but it still chugs like crazy when too many enemies or characters are on-screen. Also, the game slows down when some characters use certain animations (like when the King jumps off the throne, or sometimes when the Bull Knight, Howser, runs up and talks to the King).
Setting it to 60 fps…the characters move quickly and fluidly indoors (almost too fast), and there’s perpetual slowdown everywhere else.
The daily news bulletins glitch out if too many things happen at once, causing it to flicker in and out as it tries to adjust itself, sometimes even experiencing slowdown as it scrolls from one side of the screen to the other.
The sound? Oh, sometimes sound cues don’t even activate, leading to occasional moments of silence when there’s supposed to be a music cue. The recruitment sound effect, which was present in the Wii version, doesn’t even play at all.
I hope some of this gets fixed, because these issues are beyond frustrating, especially when I’m trying to immerse myself into a game like this.
The controls, though? That’s where things get absolutely heinous.
First of all: Little King’s Story does not have full-analog control, not even with a gamepad. Instead, you move in eight directions, lacking any sort of fluidity or finesse. It literally feels like the game’s keyboard controls were mapped to a gamepad, with no accounting for the fact that you use the analog stick to move. Considering that this is a game where you have to use precision aiming to command your subordinates during boss fights, you can imagine how frustrating this can get in a pinch.
My controller has to count its lucky stars that it doesn’t have my teethmarks in it, because using a keyboard is even worse.
How bad is it?
Remember when I said that Necropolis had one of the worst keyboard control schemes I’d ever seen?
Compared to this, it’s absolutely ingenious.
Everything is spread out, clunky, and unintuitive; with you having to alternate between WSAD and the arrow keys for menus depending on whether you’re indoors or not. Also, you cannot use the mouse or type. Instead, you’ll fumble around the keyboard like a plucky prom date, trying to at least figure out where the menu key is (it’s ‘m’, by the way. You’re welcome), and then sob as you realize that you can’t change any of your key bindings.
Come to think of it, you can’t adjust your music or sound effects volume, either, which is frustrating if you wanted to hear the sound effects and Animal Crossing-esque ‘dialogue’ but you didn’t want to listen to Little King’s Story’s score.
I guess it’s the Sound Mixer or bust, then. Too bad.
Look, I want to re-iterate that Little King’s Story is a good game. I recommend it to just about anyone who likes strategy games, or games with a cute aesthetic, and it’s a good addition for anyone wanting to dust off their Wii or Wii U.
I just can’t in good conscience recommend this port, though. Even if there weren’t so many performance issues, the controls are still sticky and sluggish, which makes it hard to enjoy the game. If you really, really need Little King’s Story on PC, then go right ahead; just know what you’re getting into first.
If anything, this version might just make you run to your Wii and appreciate the original all the more.
Final Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Wii ; Publisher: Xseed Games ; Developer: Marvelous Interactive ; Players: 1 ; ESRB: T for Teen
Full Disclosure: This was made possible by a review copy provided by the publisher.