There are few games that have brought me such pure joy as the Kefling series. Back in good ol’ 2008, I spent Christmas Eve by myself doing my annual Stay Up All Night Playing Games tradition, that year I picked a small Xbox Live Arcade title called A Kingdom For Keflings, and played it straight into Christmas Day for a total of 17 hours straight.
The world is inhabited by little human-like creatures called Keflings, it is the job of the player to assign these Keflings a particular job, such as chopping wood, or weaving sheep wool into a loom. All the while building new structures and factories and trying to keep all the resources coming in, while using up resources you gather to further continue the kingdom and eventually create the last building, a castle.
The Kefling games aren’t extremely difficult, in fact, there are no enemies whatsoever, instead it just asks you to focus on just resource management. This is what makes the game so enjoyable to me. It allows me to focus on one task while still making progress and be able to relax and zone out for hours on end while not stressing out about invading armies or a natural disaster.
The music is a big factor in allowing me to lose myself in the game. It’s just the right mixture of tangy acoustic guitar and lite hand claps and drumming the really gives the game a very folksy feel that makes you want to relax under the summer nighttime sky and chow down on a warm blueberry pie. The original game had seasons and the soundtrack would change slightly to fit the season. Summer and hand a more relaxed flow, while Spring brought the peppiness of getting things done. Even though the tracks loop over and over until the next season, it’s the rare game soundtrack that keeps the game moving while not really being very noticable. It does it’s job in the background and doesn’t really call attention to itself.
The VR version keeps the same basic structure of the Kefling games, while using the VR medium to its advantage. With VR, games that have a cartoonish style and bright vivid colors really do pop and stand out. Handful of Keflings also swaps the over-the-top, semi-isometric view for something more like a side scrolling diorama. This makes the game feel new and not just a straight port of the other games. It also really has no story or even any dialogue which the second game tried to do, and I feel failed miserably. Just assign the keflings to jobs, and build up your resources to unlock new buildings and blueprints until you reach the end.
I completed the game in around 2-3 sittings and it took around 6 hours to be. I lost track of an entire Saturday and couldn’t be more happy while doing so. The smile on my face as I just picked a Kefling off the ground and put them to work at a rock mine and then build a storage shed for him to store, then have another Kefling take those stones and cut them into slabs to be used by another kefling to build a factory that turned those slabs of rock into bricks, gives the game a sense of an assembly line that keeps going and going.
Using VR to pull back every once in a while, to oversee my creation of this massive town of workers, all doing one task, and passing it on to the next worker and seeing my inventory of items accumulate was so extremely satisfying that I couldn’t stop, nor did I want to. Near the end of the game, there was a bit of waiting as I just had to sit and wait for the workers to build up inventory for me to build the next piece of the final buildings, which took a while.
Since there is only a finite amount of workers, but an unlimited supply of resources, I had to start pausing some jobs and pull Keflings off one station and focus on the production of other things. For example; an observatory needed much more brick, and less magic potions, so I paused the production of the potions, and moved a few workers to help mine rocks and build a few more stone cutter factories to help with the output and brick production.
A Handful of Keflings didn’t need to be a VR only game, but I am glad it is. It’s a unique experience to one of my favorite games of all time and was such a wonderful and peaceful experience, that I wish I could play it again with a different layout and more buildings and objectives. Sadly it’s a one and done type of game as it doesn’t offer anything else than the single map that doesn’t change. But for a game that I had sitting in my backlog for a year and a half, it was the perfect way to spend a dog dangling Saturday afternoon.