Kingdom Eighties review

Kingdom Eighties review

Strange things are happening at camp, and only a solid narrative tower defense can solve the mystery

One of the joys of Summer leisure is to be able to play video games late at night, especially outside. With handheld platforms, especially like the Switch and the Steam Deck, being able to curl up in the hammock at 11PM on a warm evening is a pretty great experience. This is doubly so depending on the style of game, and Kingdom Eighties is possibly the perfect video game for the experience.

Eighties is “the next” Kingdom game, albeit a shorter and more focused experienced. The series is known for simplified gameplay that mixes tower defense and narrative, and while those elements are found here they’re also done so in a completely new time period. Gone is the magic and swords, with teenagers, campgrounds, malls and carnivals in its place.

Yes, this is the eighties. THIS IS VERY MUCH THE EIGHTIES.

Because it’s the main differentiator for this sequel/offshoot, Kingdom Eighties really pushes the aesthetic of the neon decade, bordering on the campy side that is meant to be an in your face reminder of that era. For someone who still fondly remembers those years it’s not unwelcome — it’s just a little much, as the aesthetic is starting to wane in pop culture.

No matter how much I can tolerate the Eighties any more, the game manages to remain in a class of its own. It’s simple in gameplay — just drop coins and make buildings, basically — but that simplicity is really about balance, especially when those narrative elements are mixed in. The execution is sublime, really. Play sessions are meant to be laid back and short, and because the screen doesn’t really zoom in on our character on the 2D plane we have to continually move around and do stuff. That includes talking to people and solving their little problems. Some of the personal missions, like finding a lost item or convincing someone to take up a position, reveal the personalities of the characters and expose their suppressed fears and inhibitions.

We move left and right, recruiting characters and building fortifications to slow down the advance of the Greed, the game’s otherworldly antagonists, and before we realize it our little camp has become a giant fortified town. It catches up to us quickly. There’s no carrot that needs dangling in front of us, it’s just our constant execution of tasks that adds up around us.

It’s all very satisfying.

Especially in a hammock on the deck, when the darkness is creeping around us and the patio light flickers with moths bouncing against it.

Summer gaming, baby.

This review is based on a Steam code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher. All images courtesy Raw Fury.

This video originally appeared on The SideQuest LIVE on June 28, 2023.