The king is dead. That’s how Nostatic’s newest Xbox Live Indie Game Ascent of Kings starts out. It’s a somber beginning what is otherwise a breezy and carefree exploratory platformer. Your quest to become the new king is a fun, albeit short one despite this.
The journey begins much to the chagrin of your father, who believes you to be too young to handle the rigors ahead. Youthful confidence prevails and you set out on a quest for kinghood in the footsteps of your recently-journey-bound brothers. Each of your kin was equipped with a special item to help them with the road ahead. While you have none to start with, you’ll eventually acquire them all. It’s a good thing, too, since you’ll need them to reach your destination.
In typical “Metroidvania” style, new abilities will allow you to reach areas visible but out of reach. The game’s relatively brief length of about an hour or so means you’ll see them pretty quickly, so I won’t spoil them here. While the genre-staple double jump makes an appearance, other, more unique abilities are eventually added to your repertoire. That said, the basic controls are solid and have a good feeling to them. The jumping in particular feels natural and properly balanced, which is something these kinds of games sometimes struggle with.
Adventurous players will find a bit of extra gameplay in searching for hidden shrines, but none of them were particularly difficult to locate or reach during your initial playthrough. Only a few require you to backtrack, but it’s nice that there’s something extra at all, since Ascent of Kings is already a pretty solid little game on its own.
This review is based on the retail copy of the full XBLIG version of the game, which was purchased by the reviewer. The game is available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 80 Microsoft points ($1).