I’m a sucker for anything relating to the 1980s, whether it’s the music, the movies, the fashion, or the aesthetic. Being born in that era, I have small memories of it, specifically through the media I consumed; I just wish I could have been old enough to appreciate it more at the time. Kingdom Eighties grabs that time by the horns and uses the synth waves and style as a backdrop to craft a wonderful strategy title that gives you plenty of freedom to fend off the threats that await you as well as allowing you to explore the town for all of its secrets, lore, and nods to the coolest decade of all time.
There’s an evil lurking within the town known as the Greed. At first, you’re not too sure what they are or where they came from, but as you progress through the episodes, you understand your own family’s involvement in their emergence and what your relevance is in the story. It’s often played out through 80s-style cartoon cutscenes between episodes and after spending coins to dig deeper into the lore. Even the story feels like a homage to classics from the time, and it really comes into its own after arriving on Main Street.
I’d never played a Kingdom game before, and its base-building elements were a nice surprise. Each episode follows a day and night cycle. In the day, you spend coins on expanding and reinforcing your base, hiring local kids to become builders or warriors ready to defend against the Greed when the night falls, and finding other ways to help your fight. You can head east or west of the base, chopping down trees to connect your base to the next area (wherever a traffic cone is present), while at the same time finding other objectives like recruiting one of your friends to help you out, or unlocking a new bike or mode of transport.
At the same time, you can upgrade your base to allow better fortifications against the enemy, and in turn unlocking a dumpster to help protect you as you push towards whatever the episode’s main objective is. As the day unfolds, you’ll earn more coins by finding chests or telephone boxes; collecting them off the kids within your camp who might have killed some nearby animals; through jobs the kids can complete like fishing or being a lifeguard; and more. The more coins you have, the stronger the base can become, and as you progress, new things can be constructed to help you out, such as turrets and laser-firing robots.
Kingdom Eighties has a nice flow to it, with the day and night cycle and the ease of dropping a few coins into something to either build or harvest, and there’re a ton of secrets to find that offer some really cool Easter eggs. My favourite involved a certain scene from Back to the Future Part II and an iconic skateboard, but there’s much more to find, and fans of pop culture from the time are going to have plenty of fun finding it all, with nods to E.T., Gremlins, and more.
When the night rolls around and the Greed begin to attack your base, it can be a tense experience, especially when you’re trying to decide whether you have time to fortify before one of the little creatures takes out a worker, or whether five archers are going to be enough to fend off the next wave. When I first started playing, I felt lost when it came to earning coins and what to do, as there was little guidance other than a floating figure who told you to go to something and pump some coins into a building or object.
You do begin to work out what you need to do, but the enemy can be relentless, and if they knock the crown off your head and take it back to where they came from, you’re screwed. Thankfully, the more coins you have and the better your defence, it starts to become rather satisfying. As the Leader, you start to unlock your friends to join you. The Champ is a jock with the ability to fend off the Greed with force; the Tinkerer is able to tweak inventions and help to fight the Greed; and the Wiz is a tech-loving nerd who helps with certain contraptions and problems you encounter.
The pixel-art is stunning, with various neon signs and homages to the 80s done so in plenty of detail, with gorgeous colour in everything you see, whether it’s at the camp you initially start at or the mall, it just looks so good. Even the animations of the various iterations of the enemy look great. The soundtrack is also a great addition to Kingdom Eighties, helping to bring the era alive and create both tense and beautiful moments throughout the story.
I love Kingdom Eighties. Not just because of the era it was set in, but because the gameplay is so addictive. The base-building elements and the exploration make every new episode exciting to play, and the different ways you must progress all pose interesting challenges. It was tricky to get to grips with at the start, and unless you’re fully prepared it can be easy to lose your crown. Regardless, I had so much fun with it, and I fell in love with the story and animation.
Plenty of secrets to find
Difficult to get to grips with
Tough if not prepared enough