by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Into another dimension
Youíve got your 2D platformers, youíve got your 3D platformers, youíve even got the occasional ď2.5DĒ platformer. Flat Kingdom is a game that thinks that all of that is just plain wrong. It doesnít believe you should mix your dimensions and takes place in a two dimensional world where something has gone wrong and the third dimension is starting to threaten the inhabitantsí way of life.
Flat Kingdom is kept in order using magic crystals, but when a sneaky fox steals one of them, itís up to oneÖ grey blob to save the day. You play as Flat - who must be pretty excited to be named after the entire country, or perhaps the country is named after him - who knows? Youíre a tiny little character who can change shape at will between circle, triangle, and square. If youíre playing with a controller as the game recommends, youíll be switching between the three shapes using the face buttons, while the fourth button will make you jump. If you happen to be using a PlayStation style controller, the shapes will even be matched to those on the buttons. Handy.
In circle form, Flat is able to double jump. Switch to triangle and heíll be able to run at super speed after a short charging up time. When heís a square, heís slow and heavy. Youíll find yourself in circle form for most of the platforming sequences, but itís in the combat and puzzle solving where youíll have to be shifting shapes.
Square, triangle, circle
Flat Kingdomís combat works using a kind of rock-paper-scissors system. For some reason, Square beats triangle, triangle beats circle and circle beats square. All of the creatures in the kingdom conform to one of these shapes so itís up to you to quickly figure out what basic shape they are, and switch to the one that beats it. This can be tricky as itís not always clear which is which. Is that a circle, or a square with slightly rounded edges? And is that a triangle or just an oddly shaped square? Then you have to quickly remember what shape beats what and, since itís not the most intuitive system, you often have to stop and think for a split second. This unfortunately breaks up the flow of a game which is already quite slow paced.
To speed things up I would switch to triangle mode to get from place to place quicker. However the camera doesnít keep up with the speed, so Flat is basically at the right hand side of the screen when going at full pace. If thereís an obstacle coming up, youíll need quick reactions to stop in time. I often found myself taking a heart of damage while trying to get to the next area running into an enemy or spiky plant.
Not too exciting
The papercraft style of Flat Kingdom looks fine, but thereís nothing really interesting to look at. As mentioned, the main character is small and grey, and his only defining characteristic is a large nose which protrudes from each of the shapes he can turn into. Enemy designs arenít all that exciting either, until you reach the bosses. These are often huge creatures that donít really conform to the rock-paper-scissors combat. Instead youíll be dodging attacks and looking for weaknesses, which normally means jumping up and turning into the square for a kind of butt-stomp attack.
After youíve defeated a couple of bosses, the game opens up with the introduction of new abilities. For example, running at full speed with triangle and turning into the square launches you forward as a heavy projectile which can smash through obstacles. These combos do mix things up a bit and offer some welcome variety to the puzzle platforming sequences, but the platforming itself could use some tweaking. Some jumps require precise timing that isnít needed elsewhere, and the checkpointing system isnít great if you fail. In fact, if you turn the game off while youíre in a level, next time you begin it will take you all the way back to the start even if youíve hit checkpoints along the way.
Flat on delivery
Flat Kingdom is a platformer with a neat premise, but the idea of a trinity of characters performing different abilities has been done before, and better. There are ideas here that work, but the issues outweigh the positives. Unfortunately, Flat Kingdomís biggest sin is that itís just a bit boring.
Cute premise, later stages see a good variety of abilities
Slow paced, platforming doesnít feel precise, basic visual design