Title: Lost King’s Lullaby
Genre: Adventure, Role-Playing, Action, Roguelike
Modes: Single Player
Developer: Storeen Games
Platform(s): PC, Switch (reviewed)
Release: April 25, 2019
The Nintendo Switch eShop has slowly found itself becoming strikingly similar to its countless digital distribution counterparts in tragic fashion. What used to be a way to browse through a solid digital launch lineup has since become inundated with shovelware, free-to-play mobile ports, and deceitful money grabs. Lost King’s Lullaby is an excellent example of the latter: an initially innocent-looking $8 distraction that’s actually chock-full of technical issues, translation errors, and mind-numbing repetition that’ll make you regret your purchase in mere minutes.
The Tip and the Top
The King’s Lullaby features a pleasant introduction that makes a positive first impression even though that potential is immediately squandered in the gameplay that follows. It introduces the protagonist - an orphan named Kiara - and her plight as the sole individual capable of taking on an evil crow lady that’s taken over the kingdom. If you manage to ignore the poor translation job that makes the plot nearly unintelligible, it’s a nice storybook opening that showcases some pleasant hand-drawn art.
Despite the overwhelming lack of polish in Lost King’s Lullaby, there are a few quality-of-life features on display that would have required notable effort to implement. This is a side-scrolling roguelike of sorts that has you walking left and right through identically-structured areas and fighting the foes that stand in your path. Every room is the same shape and length, but there are so many identical rooms that it can be easy to get lost. Thankfully, the game’s map keeps track of where you’ve already been and where the stationary enemies are positioned. The surprisingly functional map proves immensely useful when trying to avoid the incredibly tedious fights.
Speaking of fights, the combat in Lost King’s Lullaby isn’t very good. However, it is competently designed. Making contact with an enemy in any of the endless rectangular areas brings up a separate panel where combat takes place. The combat system here is almost straight out of Undertale, but there are far fewer interesting things going on here. You control a circular cursor that you have to move about the 2D combat area to avoid your enemies’ attacks. As you do so, an MP bar across the bottom will fill up allowing you to slow down your enemy, attack, or heal up if you let your MP build up long enough. As you reach the MP threshold required for each move, a dot will appear above your cursor to indicate that a move is ready to be used. It’s a nice little touch that allows you to keep your eyes on the action without having to guess at what moves are available to you at any point in time.
The Flip and the Flop
What becomes immediately apparent after a few minutes of time with Lost King’s Lullaby is its complete lack of polish or visual flair. The visuals look nice in stills and screenshots, but everything moves in uncomfortable-looking lurches. Enemies unceremoniously wiggle around before collapsing after their defeat, and the combat screen displays both you and the enemy during every encounter, but they’re just still images. Your attacks lack any satisfying crunch, and the most pleasant in-game effects occur on the loading screens. The little things are important to keep you looking forward to something amid a game as repetitive as this, but there is little visual or mechanical satisfaction to be found here.
To make matters worse, the time you’ll spend throughout the game’s three nearly identical locales is stuffed full of pace-killing loading times. Every room transition and victorious battle leaves you stuck with a seconds-long loading screen that causes the progress you’re making to feel more frustratingly tedious than it is motivating. Add the seamless but slow transition into battles on top of all that, and you’ve got a sluggish slog of repetition ahead of you that’ll make you just want to turn it all off.
Considering it’s rife with repetition, Lost King’s Lullaby serves as an excellent test of one’s patience. Every single section of the map is the same size and shape. Every single one. The enemies you encounter are graciously randomized, but there are a maximum of three or four enemy types in each area, so you’ll be fighting the same generic monsters over and over. Each foe uses the same moves, so (once you have each attack memorized) every fight becomes a trivial waiting game. You just have to keep moving your cursor out of the way while waiting for your MP bar to keep charging up before you can attack. It lacks any breadth or depth, and it’s incredibly mind-numbing as a result.
There seems to be a somewhat interesting tale being told here with clear Celtic ties that Storeen Games highlights in their descriptions, but poor localization work leaves all the game’s lore and details lost to translation. Almost every text snippet has a grammatical error, suffers from awkward phrasing, or just plain doesn’t make sense. It’s extraordinarily distracting and completely misses the mark when it comes to giving the player any motivation to soldier on through the tedium.
In case the myriad of deep-seated issues weren’t deterrent enough, Lost King’s Lullaby features plentiful technical problems. For starters, the game’s framerate gets worse the longer you play until it eventually devolves into a slideshow stutterfest after an hour-long session. This happened regardless of whether we played portably or docked, and it could only be fixed by closing the game out and reopening it. Doing so is easy enough, but it can come at the cost of all the progress you made in the current stage. If you’re almost through an area when the stuttering kicks in, then you’re just going to have to power through if you don’t want to be set all the way back at the beginning (and trust me, you definitely don’t want that).
Lost King’s Lullaby also has chronic glitching problems. Over the course of a single playthrough we saw enemy projectiles that simply stopped existing, attack-telegraphing arrows that weren’t actually telegraphing attacks, and we were completely unable to partake in the game’s progression system for the first few hours despite the tutorial insisting that we do so. If you throw the inability to pause during combat on top of all this, you’re in for a wild ride full of hair-pulling frustration.
Final Grade: D
In this day and age, we are spoiled with an endless supply of excellent video games, but curation is a necessity. Without it, we’re left with games like Lost King’s Lullaby needlessly stealing the oxygen from criminally underplayed gems like last year’s excellent Iconoclasts. This game is a buggy, repetitive, poorly-optimized, and deeply flawed mess that’s doubtlessly going to be put out to pasture as soon as it releases. It isn’t worth your time, and - if you’re especially morbidly curious - it doesn’t take long to see so for yourself. Feel free to pony up the $8 for the privilege, but I would not at all recommend doing so.