Adventures rely on the popular predicaments— evil someones and somethings, princes and princesses (often in another castle), swords and rings with unifying powers. Ascent of Kings (80 MSP) gives you a chance at replacing royalty via your basic fitness test. Coming from Nostatic Software, the makers of last year’s ‘different kind of adventure game’ Quiet, Please!, I knew I could count on a colorful tale. I just had to hope that the gameplay wouldn’t be so esoteric this time around.
My curiosity was rewarded with fairly standard platforming instead, tied together with the light story (both in content and emotional gravitas) of a search for a new king. You play as the youngest brother of four (and apparently least favorite, in the eyes of your condescending father), initially rebuffed to undertake the kingly trial but soon found to be the most capable. Hmm, imagine that. Score one for the underdogs.
Along the way, you’ll stop at Lesser shrines, which are merely blessings, and Greater shrines that grant essential quest abilities, such as being able to breathe longer underwater or the option to glide after a double jump. You’ll also stumble onto your hapless siblings, and they too will part with their entrusted abilities. Each subsequent upgrade is immediately put to use, pointing the way forward without error, save for a few alternative paths you’ll notice but will have to return to later.
It is a Metroidvania in that sense, that you’ll gradually collect new powerups from said shrines and your fallen brothers (I’m not one to question anybody’s tolerance for pain, but is a sprained wrist really going to stop you from becoming a goddamn King?) en route to your guaranteed ascension. That said, it’s still almost entirely linear from start to finish. You’ll face some slight resistance from enemies (a slingshot comes into play) or timed obstacles (spikes or jumps), though it’s all by-the-book, Platforming / Adventuring 101, safe for all ages.
This is as dangerous as it gets, folks.
The whole business of becoming king lasts about an hour, those final twenty minutes or so spent hunting down the remaining ‘lesser shrines’, which only add a more definitive closing screen and a few lines of text for all your (still minimal) trouble. Ascent of Kings is a quaint journey, fun while you’re at it, that doesn’t try to extend things with any unnecessary puzzles or trick platforming. Frustrations are a no-show. What you see is exactly what you get, and that’s fine.