Flat Kingdom Wears its Inspiration on its Sleeve
Flat Kingdom’s paper-craft art style, similar to Media Molecule’s Tearaway, is the first thing you’ll notice in the game’s opening cutscene. It introduces you to a familiar story of a princess kidnapping as you, the hero character named Flat, are tasked with saving the Flat Kingdom – and as you can tell, the game doesn’t try to hide its Mario inspirations. Flat Kingdom is a 2D puzzle platformer developed by Fat Panda Games after the game’s success in the Steam Greenlight program. As you proceed on your grand adventure you meet friendly characters, uncover the narrative, and fight an array of bosses throughout different environments that are split up in Super Mario-like worlds. While I enjoyed the game’s visuals and ever-changing platforming, Flat Kingdom doesn’t offer much in the way combat and it leaves lot to be desired.
The developer intelligently split our hero, Flat into 3 different forms: a strong square shape useful for moving objects but lacks speed, an incredibly pacey triangle shape form that can get you out of tight spots, and a circle shaped form that can double jump. While you initially use these forms independent of each other, later sections of the game will test your ability to experiment with combined forms and you eventually get special combination actions like ‘flatbullet’, the ability to launch at enemies after dashing with the triangle shape and switching to the circle shape. Other abilities focus on the platforming side, like flatshuriken that allows you to dash and jump with the triangle shape and stick to platforms to move up and onto the next section. The game plays with the different shapes abilities a lot, like when you have to switch to the square shape in water to sink, and then rise with either the triangle or circle shape. The puzzle platforming is entertaining throughout the experience, and the 3-character GTAV-esque switching is at the core of that.
“Dodging projectiles and eliminating enemies while trying to figure out how to defeat the boss is when Flat Kingdom is at its best.”
The puzzle platforming is fine enough, but the combat – outside of the boss battles – is where things begin to bog down. Most enemies die from either running through them with a certain shape or jumping on top of their heads like the turtle enemies in Mario. It’s not exactly engaging, and most encounters you can just skip to get to the next interesting platforming section. Now during the boss battles, the combat and platforming combine to create the best gameplay experience available in Flat Kingdom. Dodging projectiles and eliminating enemies while trying to figure out how to defeat the boss is when Flat Kingdom is at its best. Players are equipped with a standard health system that grows over time after you pick up enough coins in the levels and buy more health at the store. Each level lists the amount of coins you missed, although replaying them is sort of useless.
On the audio/video side of things, Flat Kingdom looks unique and some parts resemble Drinkbox Studios’ Guacemelee, as the game is filled with a variety of environments as you go through the worlds. The musical score is composed by Manami Matsumae who also worked on Megaman, Shovel Knight, and the upcoming Mighty No. 9 – and the investment was well worth it as audio design kept me going even when the combat sections became a little stale. The character design’s for the bosses are great, and the breadth of enemy variations keeps things fresh. I just wish Flat was more visually appealing, as the 3-shaped hero is just painted grey – disappointingly for any fans that wanted to cosplay as the little hero.
Flat Kingdom’s combat is underdeveloped and stale, but its puzzle platforming and experimentation between the different shape forms is enjoyable. Boss sections are where the best-rounded parts of the game converge, and each one brings new ways to tackle enemies and approach the game. A unique art style and great soundtrack helps the game differ itself from other 2D puzzle platformers, but it is in the 3-character shape system that sets Flat Kingdom apart. As enjoyable as a lot of the sections are, too much of the game focuses on the poor combat, and I found myself constantly wishing the next area was either another boss fight or a cool platforming section.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- Fun puzzle platforming
- Great soundtrack
- Enjoyable boss fights
- Underdeveloped combat
- Narrative is not that interesting