Kingdom of Arcadia’s premise should be familiar to everyone who loves gaming. Admit it, we’ve all imagined being sucked into one of our favourite gaming worlds at one point or another. That’s exactly what happens to Sam, a normal boy who is suddenly pulled inside his father’s arcade cabinet. Now stuck inside the Kingdom of Arcadia, Sam must traverse a series of increasingly complex levels, fight off hordes of enemies, and level up his equipment in order to survive.
Despite being billed as a Metroidvania, Kingdom of Arcadia doesn’t really feel like one. Its five core locations are split into several bite-sized levels before ending with a boss fight. The levels themselves feature branching paths and locked doorways, but their overall length and complexity simply cannot be compared to other titles like Hollow Knight or Axiom Verge. Your two main goals in the game are fairly simple; reach the end of each level in one piece, and collect as much money as you can along the way.
The gameplay itself is reasonably well executed. Sam has a double jump ability right from the start, and his sword attacks — while simplistic — feel quick and effective, dispatching most standard enemies within just a few hits. Early in the game, you also gain throwing knives, which work well if you’re up against a few enemies that can throw projectiles of their own. Ultimately though, it all feels a bit basic; there are no fancy flourishes or additional abilities, and while some may argue that this is refreshing, it does admittedly make the game feel a tad repetitive after a while.
The money you collect in each level can be used at the central hub’s shop, which offers upgrades to your armour, sword, and axe. Each upgrade naturally costs significantly more than the last, and you might find you’ll need to replay a few levels in order to afford some of the more expensive items, particularly if you find yourself stuck against a tricky boss. Each upgrade also offers visual differences to your equipment, which is a neat little touch.
In terms of visuals and audio, Kingdom of Arcadia does just enough to scrape by. The pixel graphics are fairly basic, and the enemy designs are often repeated throughout the game, albeit with different splashes of colour. The music is pretty limited, with only one distinct track playing for most of the game’s levels, and there's no voiceover for the game's dialogue, unsurprisingly (which might actually be a blessing — there are several glaring translation issues in the text).
Kingdom of Arcadia is worth a punt if you’re a fan of side-scrolling fantasy games. It doesn’t quite do enough to earn the title of ‘Metroidvania’ in our eyes, but that’s not a bad thing in itself. We’d say it’s closer to your basic linear platformer, and although it has some clear limitations, the core gameplay is definitely strong enough to keep you engaged throughout.