After an extended royal tour of pretty much every mobile platform on the planet, King Oddball Ends the World has rolled onto the PlayStation Vita. Offering projectile flinging fun in the vein of Angry Birds, this puzzle game looks to usurp the throne from the long time ruler and avoid being thrown into the dungeons for treason.
With a quirky art style and jolly music, the whole thing comes across as a bit of a fever dream from the very start. There’s no setup or explanation, but there’s no doubt either that King Oddball is a very odd king indeed. He’s a disembodied head that’s part rock, who spends his time flinging stones at a nameless military force. This faction made up of tanks, helicopters, and infantry – who appear to have a skill for staying completely still and not fighting back – are the only thing standing between the leader and world domination.
Each stage challenges the monarch to destroy the forces facing him using only the three rocks in his arsenal. The initial stages see you fighting fewer enemies than you have rocks, but as you progress, the enemy will dig in behind barriers, develop force fields to absorb strikes, and multiply in numbers until there are more of them than rocks at the King’s disposal. As a result, you’ll need to plan your shots carefully and use the unique setup of each level to your advantage in order to wipe the antagonists out.
To chuck his rocks, the protagonist picks them up with his amazingly long tongue (he doesn't have arms, he's disembodied after all) and swings them through a pendulous arc. Once the rock has reached the desired point in the arc, a simple press of a button, or a touch of the Vita’s screen, will release your projectile into the air. Scoring a direct hit on an enemy will obliterate them, forcing the stone to ricochet off its armour and fly across the display.
Bouncing rocks between multiple targets is the key to success, as a takedown of three or more enemies will add an additional rock to your ammunition. Similarly, should debris bounce back and hit the King himself, then it’s reloaded for another lob. However, if this happens too often it will knock the emperor out, stopping your attempt at a stage in its tracks.
The title starts things off slow with the early stages proving very easy. In fact, the introduction was so simple that we thought that there wasn't going to be much of a challenge at all. As things progress, however, the difficulty does ramp up, and we soon realised that things were more complex than first appeared. We found ourselves letting rocks fly over and over again trying to hit targets at just the right angle to kick off the desired chain reaction that would see us move onto the next stage. While this unexpected depth to the core gameplay is a nice surprise, though, it's still quite straightforward, and there’s nowhere near the level of complexity or variety seen in a game like Angry Birds.
That’s not to say there isn’t any variety in the title at all, though. Additional sets of levels spring up as you progress, challenging you to play differently. These include arenas where you can only use a single rock to vanquish the opposing army, as well as objectives where the stones are replaced by grenades. Alas, while welcome, these alternatives just don’t mix things up often enough, with even the eventual hidden secret stages proving to be a bit of a letdown.
As a result, you’ll have seen everything that the release has to offer long before you reach its conclusion. This coupled with a lack of scoreboards or performance ratings of any kind make this royal affair a somewhat sparse experience, with the whole thing hinging on the same gameplay that you encountered from the start. Fortunately, the basic rock chucking is so much fun that we found ourselves coming back over and over again, and by the time that we hung up our crown, we’d put in over nine hours guiding the monarch to victory.
King Oddball Ends the World won’t dethrone the avian king of the flinging genre anytime soon, but it’s a surprisingly addictive and oddly compelling experience all the same. With a disappointing lack of variety to its stages overcome by rock solid core mechanics, you’ll be hard pressed to find a bite-sized game that offers much more enjoyment than this for the same money.