Kingdom Shell Review
Entering the world of darkness, escaping from reality into a fairy tale book, Kingdom Shell brings its players something magical that’s beyond one’s imagination. Inspired by games such as Momodora Reverie Under the Moonlight and Rygar on the Nes, this 2D pixelated fantasy Metroidvania brings us to the beginning chapters of once upon a time and shows us that originality can be put into a video game. You shouldn’t miss out on this game developed and published by Cup of Pixels.
We’ve all been inspired by an ancient fairy tale or folklore growing up and this game came from just that, the incredible imagination of our childhood stories turning into Kingdom Shell. Having the opportunity to interview Roma, the developer of this beautiful game, I learned that this game’s inspiration was taken directly from a movie called Tale of Tales where the name Elias was taken and implemented into the story.
Having been protected by a shield, the Kingdom never had encounters with enemies before. That all changed when the shield was broken, and it opened a gateway to many horrific creatures who began terrorizing the Kingdom’s inhabitants. These creatures were known as the Blood of Nightmares and I felt I was transported into The Hobbit, since all the enemies were coming straight from a fantasy novel. We learn that the White Temple, who failed in protecting the shield from being destroyed, couldn’t handle the overpowering of these creatures, and needed a savior. As a result, they released one of their prisoners, Elias, a half-blood in whose veins flows the blood of nightmares. If proven worthy, Elias would then be able to finally be released and free to walk amongst the inhabitants.
This game is compared to games of that of Castlevania and Momodora. You progress through the map by encountering abilities and backtracking to continuously unlock new locations and secrets, just like any Metroidvania style game. At the start of the game, it looks like Elias uses his own hand to attack enemies. However, as you progress, Elias encounters abilities such as the soul crystal, orb of rage and dark star that allow you to access areas that were inaccessible without them. For example, the orb of rage breaks through walls and the dark star hits flowers to unlock doors. Aside from these abilities, and the normal abilities to advance through the levels such as double jump, Elias also encounters Inspirations which are basically charms giving you stat abilities. The game is straightforward and doesn’t have any complicated mechanics like some other Metroidvanias, so I would say that even the beginning players who just started this genre would enjoy their experience with this game. Be aware that the controls are a bit heavy at times and learning to platform in this game may take some time, but once you can figure out the mechanics of the controls, the platforming should get simpler.
The graphics of this game are captivating. As I was going through the different biomes of this game, I felt like I was pulled into the pages of a fairy tale book. The different baroque structures really fit into its entire theme. My favorite location of this game was in Top City where you pass by the beautiful architecture with the moon in the background. I felt that this location really reminded me of Castlevania and Bloodstained Ritual of the Night. The developer’s love for Rygar initiated the beginning of the game by adding the White Rocks and even including a reference to Uroboros, the first boss, by adding little round enemies that roll towards you. As far as performance, this game functions on 60 FPS with crisp graphics and has no issues with delays when moving from location to location.
The OST of the game was composed by Semyon Dubovik. Many emotions were put into each individual soundtrack and each biome plays a song that portrays the situation of the environment. For example, in the Gnome’s Caves, the developer said, that he asked for something more cheerful in a Synthwave style, something from the ’80s, because he wanted a contrast after the heavy White Rocks track and wanted to emphasize the caves were inhabited by hardworking gnomes who never feel down. I appreciate the developer concentrating on the details of the music in the game. I don’t know about you, but if the OST is good then I feel more engaged in the game.
The developer really put a lot of love into Kingdom Shell. He listens to players concerns, and continuously works on improving the mechanics of the game. There are plans to bring this game to other consoles including the Nintendo Switch, but not until he perfects this game on PC first. You can follow his progress over at his Twitter (X) account and make sure to check out or wishlist this game on Steam.
Interview with Roma, Developer of Cup of Pixels
Where did you draw your inspiration for Kingdom Shell?
When creating Kingdom Shell, I drew inspiration from games like Momodora RUtM and Rygar on NES. However, I chose the fairytale setting after watching the movie “Tale of Tales,” where, by the way, one of the characters is named Elias. Furthermore, Momodora captivated me with its dark atmosphere without excessive brutality and its level of difficulty. I enjoy games that offer a challenge. This is something I also wanted to incorporate into Kingdom Shell.
This is exactly what I wanted to know! When I first played it- it showed so many elements from a fairy tale setting especially dark fantasy, that I thought at first it was from a book.
The storyline with the Queen, the Witch, and the little princess is quite an ancient fairy tale narrative. I reinterpreted it in my own way.
What about the structures, the architecture, and locations? Were they directly inspired from Castlevania?
The Royal Palace – yes, it’s a nod to Castlevania, but with the level design of Momodora. The first location – the White Rocks, is my love letter to Rygar from my childhood. Even the first enemy, Uroboros – in Rygar, there were similar round enemies that rolled towards you. In terms of the architecture of the Top City, I didn’t want to delve into gothic, as there are already enough gothic games out there. I settled on baroque, thinking it was a more suitable style for a fairytale. Originally, the Top City looked completely different. It took me a lot of time and studying numerous references to make the city look the way it does now. I’m satisfied with the result.
Who composed the music for this game and what instruments were used?
The music for the game was composed by Semyon Dubovik. He was recommended to me on some resource; I honestly can’t remember exactly were. I’m very glad that Semyon agreed to work with me. Each track was discussed individually. I explained the emotions the track should evoke and the style it should have. Semyon quickly grasped what I wanted from him. For the Gnome’s Caves, I asked for something more cheerful in a Synthwave style, something from the ’80s, because I wanted a contrast after the heavy White Rocks track. I wanted to emphasize that the caves are inhabited by hardworking gnomes who never feel down, and there are mechanisms everywhere, everything is in motion. By the way, my favorite tracks that I sometimes re-listen to are the ones from the Gnome’s Caves, the Royal Palace, and the Dream Tower.
Is there a place that the OST is accessible to the public? Maybe on YouTube or somewhere similar?
Unfortunately, the OST is currently not accessible to the public. I do plan to address this later because I genuinely believe the tracks turned out wonderful.
And my final question is if you plan to bring this game to other consoles, mainly gearing towards the Switch.
Yes, it is in my plans to release the game on consoles, including the Switch. First, I want to address all the issues in Kingdom Shell that have caused discomfort for players. After that, I will seek a publisher to help me release it on consoles.
Thank you for the interview.
This review code was provided to me by the publisher.