For the most part, anyway. Some elements of LKS can irritate, such as the infuriating save system. You know how all videogames have had an autosave feature since 1892? Not this one. Each time you want to save you have to head back to the castle and talk to Verde. You can jump there thanks to a menu option, but if you want to carry on with whatever you were doing pre-save, you then have to wander all the way back.
Also, you know how most games which have day-night cycles automatically save your progress when your character goes to bed? Or at least give you the option to do so? Not this one, so don't make the mistake of making that assumption.
I didn't discover any of this until the first time I died, a good couple of hours in and a fair bit of time since I'd last saved. I came back to life to discover it was if I'd never built the carpenter workshop or trained the two citizens or got them to construct the bridge or taken the soldiers over to the other side or defeated all the enemies or earned enough cash to build the red house. "It's important to save regularly," Verde informed me after this incident. Thanks for that.
Verde is not the only irritating character you'll meet in Little King's Story. There's also a weird religious type, unamusingly called Kampbell of the Sect of Soup. Early on in the game he wanders up to you and asks, "Do you believe in God?" before demanding you spend 44,000 Bol on building him a church. "God will punish you if you don't!" says Kampbell. "And if God doesn't punish you, I will!"
Nothing much seems to happen if you don't, and it's not as if there's a hidden evangelical agenda here. But all the same, Kampbell and his comments have an air of menace to them that don't sit well within the peaceful context of the game.
Then there's Hoswer. For the first hour or so he encourages you to follow a pretty simple plan - get more money, build more houses. But after you've defeated the first boss, he presents you with a new idea: genocide. That's right, Howser says, you must cross over the river where the Onii creatures live. "Beat all the Onii on that side and dominate the world," he commands.
Kampbell throws his opinion in, too: "God says you must punish all the enemies who get in your way!" There's no option to ignore Howser's demands or question what the Onii did in the first place to warrant their wanton destruction, or to just have a nice sit down instead.
It's a bit of a shame, especially following the LocoRoco and Resident Evil 5 kerfuffles, that all the Onii are black. To be specific, black with big white eyes and bright red mouths. I am not accusing anyone of anything. I am saying that you are ordered to kill an entire species, and they happen to be black, and when my friend Dom came in the room he said, "They look like hairless golliwogs." I am saying, wouldn't it be nice to have more black characters in games who aren't baddies?
There are plenty of baddies in Little King's Story who aren't black, by the way. Bosses, for example, tend to take the form of giant frogs, raging bulls and the like. The battles with them add another element to the cycle of collecting, building and fighting. But for the most part that's all you're doing, again and again. It all gets tougher as you progress, but you get more citizens to command and more options to choose from.
That won't be enough to keep some people interested, and even the biggest fans of this genre will need real dedication to play right to the end; this is an epic game. However, like all the best titles of its kind, LKS is quietly addictive. Just when you reach a point of frustration and think you've had enough, a new job type will become available or a new area will open up, and it's impossible to resist playing on.
Little King's Story is not the best game you'll ever play. It's repetitive, it's lacking in depth and it can feel slow and frustrating at times. Plus it's got some dodgy politics and a rubbish save system. But it's the best game I've played all year, and that includes Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad. It's charming, engrossing and just plain fun. It's proof that Wii games don't have to be mediocre mini-game compilations or first-party Nintendo titles. It's a reason to be glad companies like Rising Star still exist, and that they're still making games like this. And it's got nice graphics. What are you waiting for?
8 / 10