Little King’s Story
From the very minute our diminutive hero places a crown on his head to become king of sunny Alpoko in a shocking disregard for democracy, it’s patently obvious that he and, by extension, you the player has his work cut out. Stranded in the arse end of nowhere with only a ‘castle’ (in the loosest sense of the word), a small stretch of near baron land, and just a couple of cows to your name is far from the ideal start to a fairytale story. Some kingdom. And what a truly daunting task it seems to be, turning this glorified clubhouse into a thriving, all-encompassing empire that would make even Napoleon himself blush. Such is life in Little King’s Story.
Fear not, you won’t find yourself completely alone in this endeavour. And like in life, a leader and his society are only as good as the people who keep it all ticking. Unfortunately, the inhabitants living under your rule from the beginning are next to useless; floating around blissfully ignorant with not an ounce of direction or the impetus to help the player with their plans for world unification. The game lovingly refers to them under the nomenclature: carefrees – Little King’s Story’s equivalent to a student on gap year. But, like it or not, they can be horsewhipped into obedience and given jobs ranging from farmers, grunts, carpenters to name but a few that all play an essential role in creating a sustainable, but above all, believable community.
And it’s these jobs and their specific functions in Little King’s Story that makes up the bulk of the game. World unification is the ultimate target and unfortunately for everyone else, the only way to amalgamate all the individual areas is to crush and destroy its leaders. Naturally, setting foot out of the safety of Alpoko requires muscle as well as tactical know-how, and finding a delicate balance between different types of citizens to take with you on your adventures is key to success. For instance, bring nothing but grunts for a wander and - regardless of all the biceps at your disposal - you’ll find yourself unable to dig a hole for treasure that would have been all yours if a farmer had come along too. Lumberjacks will deal with large trees that block paths and carpenters will build bridges or any other structure to help progression to new frontiers that might have otherwise been inaccessible.
But when things do get ugly, they’re all more than capable of swinging whatever it is they wield, be it sword or shovel. Your citizens will stand behind the king in a ‘follow the leader’ type affair and with a press of the button, they’ll launch themselves at an enemy with complete reckless abandon in a Looney Tunes style dust ball – such is their loyalty to the cause and their benevolent king. Combat for the most part is a simple case of throwing wave after wave of your own men at a threat but as the game progresses, particularly against the other kings, battles can become strategic affairs, but sadly, some are made far harder than they should because of the targeting system that never quite seems to lock onto the intended target when it’s really needed most.
Despite your people’s indifference to self-preservation, Little King’s Story is a surprisingly human affair behind its catchy orchestral score and oil pastel visuals. As time goes on, Alpoko really does start to drum to the beat of life; your soldiers will stand and salute as you walk past, keeping the position in an almost comical fashion until you decide to leave. Lumberjacks stumble around the village carrying logs, and those carefree layabouts continue to do nothing in the way only they know how. Their involvement isn’t merely strings and wire, though, buy a suggestion box and citizens will tell you exactly how they feel, safe in the glow of anonymity. Or they may even ask you to take care of their problems in a side quest. You may be taken aback by the attachment to these tiny identikits, especially when you set off for another battle with twenty of your best only to return hours later with just one Hunter on his last legs. And all because someone called you the king of “Al-jerko” in a crudely written letter – it’s a good thing no one asks too many questions.
But make no mistake; Little King’s Story does come with problems. Besides the aforementioned targeting, the save system is less than ideal – royally screwing up potentially hours of work if you forget to save all the way back at the castle, and item management feels needlessly limited with the inclusion of an inventory cap that somewhat stunts exploration. But even when you huff and puff and bemoan its wrongdoings, Little King’s Story bounces along with an insatiable charm and letting it get the best of you then seems pointless, because it has such confidence in what it does right. And when you stroll through the kingdom created from your little wooden box of a house all those many hours ago; you’ll know it was all worth it.
Eight out of ten