Game: Flat Kingdom Paper Cut Edition
Genre: Platformer, Action, Adventure, Puzzle
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows) and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Fat Panda Games | Ratalaika
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: US $7.99 | UK £7.99 | EU € 7,99
Release Date: April 1st, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to PR Hound.
Flat Kingdom is a 2D platformer with an eye-catching paper craft art style and a unique hook to its gameplay that’s a little different from the traditional formula. Originally released in 2016 on PC the game now unfolds itself onto the Nintendo Switch. Flat Kingdom has a unique idea that should turn the heads of puzzle platform fans. But not all of its elements come together as well as they appear on paper. That’s enough paper puns for now so let’s get into it.
A New Dimension
A mysterious cloaked figure with a fox mask has kidnapped the princess and is on a quest to steal all six crystals from the realms. Crystals that somehow magically keep everything in nice flat order. But with their removal it starts to play havoc with the land and a new 3D dimension starts to pop out literally. It’s up to a cute little knight to venture across the land to reclaim the crystals and save the day.
It’s a plot that initially comes across as pretty standard by video game numbers. However, not all is as it seems as the plot begins to unravel towards the end of the game. The story does offer some additional depth to its lore, by collecting scrolls which you can find hidden around the levels. My favourite part of the narrative was when you reach a checkpoint in a level. A paper knight wakes from a slumber and provides a short snippet of witty commentary about the level and situation you’re in. A small but charming part about the game design.
Circle, Triangle Square
Flat Kingdom features five notable areas to explore. Each has two levels with a boss fight at the end. Once you head through the game for the first time you will later revisit four of the areas to search for a third secret level. The unique hook of the game is this rock, paper scissors design to tackle the enemies and puzzles.
The little knight is able to morph into a circle, square or triangle shape with each having a unique feel. Square is heavy and slow, triangle is fast with a low jump and circle is a bit of an all rounder. To defeat the enemies you need to transform into the appropriate shape and usually just collide with the enemy. For example, circle enemies are weak to the triangle shape. It’s a neat idea but for some of the enemy models, it’s very hard to tell what shape they are.
The game kind of assists with this by providing a journal which tells you the enemies weaknesses as well as other interesting info on the game. But it feels like you have to practice with a bit of trial and error, particularly on the boss fights, which is not always fun. Speaking of boss fights, these often feel quite formulaic and slow. Run around to avoid the projectiles until the boss presents a shape giving you a window to attack. Once you conquer the area’s main boss you unlock new abilities such as wall jumping and gliding which are locked to a specific shape.
You can use these newly acquired abilities to reach new areas on previous levels. Additionally, you can collect gold coins on your journey, by finding 200 you can exchange this at the start of a level with a vendor for an additional heart piece to add to the health bar. You can also obtain another heart piece by completing four small side quests for NPCs throughout the game that act as pretty basic fetch quests.
The controls are where the game begins to falter. Jumping in this game is unpleasant. On many occasions this feels like a platformer that requires a little too much precision to reach the next platform. It turned what looks like a pleasant platformer into something much more frustrating. Flat Kingdom works best when it allows you to take its time with the controls and figure out the shape you need to be to solve a puzzle.
When it tries to be like those irritating hardcore platformers it’s just not much fun. The movement also just feels slow. Using triangle form puts your character into more of a sprint but the levels often plod along at a bit of a slow pace. I felt that often I hit a minor wall where I got frustrated with the jumping or confused with which shape to defeat an enemy with, only to be sent back to a nearby checkpoint to try the process again. I guess I found the experience a touch boring.
Cut Out With Care
The graphics of Flat Kingdom are easily the most stand out feature. Each level is lovingly presented in a simple but appealing paper craft design. You’ll visit the typical locales, expect a castle area, a lava area, an ice area, a water area etc. Although they all present like nice little dioramas with some good little attention to detail with environments and enemies taking inspiration from various mythologies and fantasies like Norse and Greek.
Occasionally platforms will pop out in 3D, a nice feature that breathes some life into the typical 2D design. However, it doesn’t feel like it is utilized as well as it could be. The score didn’t pop as well as I was expecting either. I guess I was expecting something a little more fantasy inspired or cutesy, a bit like the Yoshi games. But the music felt just kind of mediocre with the only memorable score being the games main theme, which often fires off after a boss fight.
Playing through the first time you’re probably looking at around the six hour mark though it felt quite long to me. After a quick run through the first five areas you do some tedious backtracking only to hunt for some hidden items. There were times when I wondered if it was worth pressing on but I guess I was pretty curious about whether my guess on where the plot would go was correct. And it kinda was.
I’d say the difficulty is fairly casual to moderate. The game does come with three difficulty settings to tailor this to your liking. There is a hidden ending that requires you to complete the game 100% which means finding all the gold coins. But I honestly didn’t feel compelled to go on that hunt. The game however, is suitable for all ages.
Conclusion – Paper Heart
Flat Kingdom scores a positive pass for me mostly thanks to its original take on game design and appealing paper craft graphics which I have always been a sucker for. But the experience is crumpled with frustrating jumping controls and a pace that just went a little too slow and formulaic for me. Everything works here with no notable glitches. If you are looking for a new original platformer it’s worth a look, but for me it’s just a few pages short of greatness.
Final Verdict: I Like It