At first glance, the cartoony characters, bright colors, and young protagonist might make Little King’s Story seem like a child’s first RTS game. But beneath the cuddly exterior, the game is about a young boy mind-controlling villagers and sending them off to fight and die so he can take over the world—which might be a little too sociopathic for concerned parents. Still, for anyone else, it’s a fantastically detailed, funny, twisted adventure that will help banish any Wii-related buyers’ remorse.
The game is set in a fantasy world where a child with a magic crown winds up in control of a small village. His advisors include the megalomaniacal Don Quixote parody Howzer, the Bull Knight, who helps his young sovereign plan how to transform a bunch of lazy peasants into a fighting force capable of taking over the map. Amusingly, the map continues to grow as you defeat more monsters and rival kings and claim their territory, so you’ll “take over the world” several times.
Little King’s Story is a hybrid simulation, adventure game, and RTS game, with elements similar to those of Pikmin and Harvest Moon. You build structures and train units in a growing number of combat and utility jobs. While you never have to worry about defending your kingdom from external assault, increasing attention is required to the composition of the growing legions your king takes out into the world with him. Even minor enemies can require you to come packing the right troops to avoid mass casualties. These deaths can be surprisingly emotional, as each unit has a name, and they sometimes send you fan mail and salute you as you pass by.
One frustrating point in combat is targeting. You launch units by pressing a button while facing your king along your chosen trajectory. While it’s funny to chuck your guys into walls when casually exploring, missing a boss during a narrow attack window can make fights grueling. Still, enemies are creative enough that even getting chased around several times by a menacing cow skull to the tune of classical music can still be fun. And the morbid celebrations your people throw afterward makes the trouble well worth it.