Sometimes when developing a game, the difference between achieving resounding success and just getting by lies in one or two key decisions. The Xbox indie platformer King Swing from developer Crosse Studio is a perfect example. I love platformers. I love simians. I love scoring leaderboards. Unfortunately, what sounds like a great game in principle ends up lacking in a few areas.
King Swing is a platformer that functions more like an endless runner (aka autorunner) as the goal is linear and control is limited. Taking on the role of an ape of presumably high social status, players must swing from one rock outcropping to another in a 2D setting. Rather than grab vines, the player shoots them in his or her direction of choice hoping to latch onto the rocks. When successful, the ape travels through a pendulous swing and the player presses a button to release. Success is all about building and keeping momentum, so aiming for a suitable rock face and releasing at the appropriate point in the swing are both paramount. While it is possible to get the monkey going again if the player messes up, coming to a dead stop is generally a fatal situation. Even with some success. the player will eventually succumb to the piranhas waiting patiently at the course’s bottom.
As clinical as that description is, the game actually IS fun to play once the player gets a feel for the mechanics. When everything’s going right, building that momentum up can create that wonderful “in the zone” feeling. I say ‘can’ because there are some design issues with the game that make this more difficult than it should be. Aiming the vines feels like an inexact science where it’s difficult to be certain what part of the rock face the vine will hit or if it will even hit at all. Should the player send the monkey hurtling too high, he disappears off the top of the screen with the camera following part of the way. Because of the change in view, it becomes really difficult to anticipate where he’s going to come down. This means players will have to guess if there are any rocks to grab onto when the camera shifts back into its regular position. The fact that the ape hurtles downward faster than normal gives players very little time to react. There’s a difference between edge-of-your-seat, intense action and putting players into a situation where they’re riding on a hope and a prayer. Far too often this game falls into the latter category.
King Swing does have some other good features going for it, though even these have their limitations. I’m a sucker for a leaderboard system and thankfully this game includes global leaderboards, a rarity for XBLIG titles. There are separate rankings for each of the three game modes: Endless (the default mode), Ropes, and Time Attack, with the latter two being shorter variations on the main mechanic. Ropes challenges players to see how far they can get with only ten ropes in their arsenal. Time Attack gives players one minute to travel as far as possible. While these are both fun in their own right, they’re not different enough from the default mode to breathe new life into the game for very long. With the touted inclusion of ragdoll physics and painful deaths, early on I had hopes that the experience of playing and failing at the game would be as entertaining as Trials HD or Trials Evolution. Here, though, there aren’t a lot of laughs to be had, so it would’ve been nice to have seen this taken further.
King Swing is a bit of an odd egg. It has potential, but there’s just something missing. At times it almost seems like it would be a better fit on a different platform, and I think my fellow XBLIG reviewers agree. For those on the fence, the developers are aware of the issues and are working on an update to fix some of the flaws. With a modified camera, fixes to the targeting system, and inclusion of an extra mode/feature or two, this would be a highly recommendable game for the casual crowd. As it exists right now, the game’s a bit shallow but still worth giving the trial a go.
© 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.