[Review] King Lucas – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Devilish Games
  • Publisher: Hidden Trap
  • Release Date: 21/02/2020
  • Price: £4.49 / $5.99
  • Review code provided by Hidden Trap

Who Wants to Slay a Dragon?

I’ve never had much of a deep connection to the metroidvania genre of game. I didn’t grow up playing either of the series that named this style of game and I never had much of a chance to go back to them or play any of their contemporaries. We just never crossed paths, you could say. I needed an entry point to see if this was for me, and I got that when I dipped my toe into playing King Lucas.

Getting a Little Sassy

With the presentation and art style of King Lucas, it looked to be a good entry point, having all the charm of a game meant to introduce younger players to the genre. Appearances can be deceiving though, because this is certainly a game meant for older players. You do not play as the titular King Lucas. He’s just the king that stands outside the massive castle/dungeon and gives you reasons to go inside and explore. The hero that you play as is really only in it for cash and not glory, so he’s kind of over the entire thing and is pretty blatantly annoyed with being sent on these errands. You can customize the appearence of the hero, but the name is pulled from the name of your switch profile. So, because I have a separate profile for playing games for Nintendad, I ended up with the stalwart hero “Work”.

That ended up being pretty fitting with the kind of tongue in cheek nature that the game has going on. A lot of the characters are pretty sarcastic or say the oddest things that gives the game a very comedic vibe. It doesn’t want you to take it too seriously, just enough to stay alive. King Lucas was created by a Spanish team, and that kind of shows in the writing and the dialog. It’s not that there is any region specific humor or anything, but when going though the game, there was a distinct impression that somewhere along the way it got translated, or was written by someone who was working in a language that was not their primary one.

While the writing is funny, the way it is written is fairly silted in a few places. The phrases used are not always the most natural, sometimes feeling overly formal and structured like a textbook rather than how a native speaker would construct them conversationally. It doesn’t take away from the game, and in fact gives it a little bit of it’s own identity, but it is noticeable enough that there was a spot or two where I had to reread things.

The Part Where Things Go Wrong

Minor typos

Remember when I said that this was a metroidvania game? That’s not entirely true. While this has a lot of the explorative elements of a metroidvania game, King Lucas has combined them with a lot of rouge-like elements, and from what I can see, that wasn’t a benefit. The castle that you have to explore starts out fairly small, but each time you leave and return, the number of rooms in the castle expands. This would be really exciting and feel like progress if not for the fact that it also entirely changes each time that you return for a new quest, though dying does not cause any such change. So, you could spend hours learning the ins and outs of a certain layout, only to to be left completely in the dark the moment that you complete your mission. The moment I realized this, all incentive to actually explore was lost, and I just explored enough to find the witch and stock up on items that would literally point me in the direction of my goal for a short time. There was no reason to explore and learn the area if it was all just going to change anyway, so I ended up skipping out on large swaths of the content of the game.

The only incentive to go off of my path was to earn a little money or get items. Unfortunately, it often wasn’t worth the effort. There are a lot of easy to defeat enemies in the halls, but it’s actually pretty rare that they drop coins or anything of the sort. Even when I would find a boss room, I would expend more of my resources than the reward for my victory gave me. A lot of rewards are locked behind doors as well, with you needing to have expendable keys in order to get them. Keys are rare unless you buy them, though, so it usually wasn’t worth it, especially when you might need  those to actually reach your goal later on.

I Feel Like I’m Not Getting Anywhere

King Lucas does not have any real feeling of progression. You can get better weapons from the blacksmith in exchange for your hard earned coins, but all of these have a set durability that you chip away at with every blow to an enemy. This would be fine if weapons were plentiful, but coin is hard to come by and finding a weapon not in a shop is nothing short of a miracle. With everything being so temporary, I never felt like I was gaining anything as I played, just being left to keep going. After a while, I found myself asking what the point was…

Especially when exploring itself, is pretty bad. There is a lot of platforming here and King Lucas is no platformer. You jump pretty slow and heavy. It would often take me multiple tries to figure out the timing to jump onto a platform that was moving up and down, because by the time I was in the air, the platform would be over my head due to it’s faster movement. Nearly every jump that you have to make is set up so that you barely make it, needing your full jump in order to reach platforms that are above your head. Combine this with your slow movement speed and a lack of checkpoints, and your have a recipe for frustration. My breaking point came when I fell into a pit of spikes at full health, and because I was down in the spikes rather than on top of them, I literally could not jump high enough to get back onto a platform for safety and had to watch my health drip away until I was reset back twelve rooms. Perhaps the most annoying part about this is that every time you die, you are treated to a several second long slow zoom in on your corpse, making you sit and wait to get back to playing.

Why This All Made Me Kind of Sad…

All of that is a shame, because on an aesthetic level, this game is pretty charming. The artwork is cute and the 2.5D setup does make the sprites really pop. I got to design my littler hero and have him smiling at me the entire game from the corner of the screen! The music is kind of repetitive, but it’s not as though it was at all grating. Having splash images of the monsters on loading screens was a really cute touch as well, especially since they had some additional shading that make them look more distinct, despite their simplicity. It’s one of those things where I am sad to say, “great design, shame about the game play”.

If you still feel interested in at least taking a look, I won’t tell you not to. King Lucas sits at a light price point that won’t break the bank if you’re only curious. If you are a PC player, though, I would consider maybe taking a look at the steam edition, as the Nintendo Switch release has stripped out the multiplayer. Then again, it doesn’t look like there is a very active multiplayer base to begin with.

Pros

  • Cute graphics
  • Great tongue-in-cheek tone
  • Map that expands to absolutely massive proportions

Cons

  • Clunky and frustrating game play
  • Bad platforming
  • Little incentive to actually explore

Verdict
Great look, shame about the game play. King Lucas is clunky and frustrating enough to outweigh some of the better elements.
2/5

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