Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Shadowed Kingdom Is An oddball Little Love Letter to Classic Disney Cartoons

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The tendency with licensed games is to make them big. It’s understandable: when a publisher gets a big property that lots of people love they’re going to want to show it off. With that in mind, Mondo‘s Shadowed Kingdom is quite the surprise. A tiiiny little game for only two players, it’s on the quirkier side of the spectrum but fits right into Mondo’s lineup of games thanks to its looks and appeal to more hardcore fans of Disney history (outside of the main cast, most of the references in this game are from Disney’s earliest cartoons). But is Shadowed Kingdom something worth wishing for, or just another curse to dispell?

What’s In The Box?

Not much, if I’m being honest. It’s a compact experience with just twenty-two cards making up the game as well as two tokens and a board (both cardboard). The box is nice as well and sturdy for its size, though the unvarnished cardboard on the inside feels a little cheap. It’s also got a divider in the bottom half of the box, but it’s incredibly flimsy and mostly keeps the cards from moving. As for the art, it’s really nice but not anything you’ll get too attached to. It cribs a lot of its aesthetic from Epic Mickey , taking inspiration from cartoons like the Silly Symphonies series but adding a dark twist. The problem is that they use them to create new places like the “Golden Touch Cafe.” In theory, I think they’re trying to create a sort of fictional Disney park (as evidenced by the park map you uncover) but they probably should have just taken an existing park and darkened it instead. The locations are very detailed and beautifully rendered, as are the various action cards. Overall it’s a cut above other pocket-sized games.

How Does It Play?

Shadowed Kingdom gameplay

The conceit of Shadowed Kingdom is that a mysterious darkness has enveloped the kingdom, as they tend to do, and the players are working with the ruler of the kingdom to defeat it by collecting magic. How that manifests is a strange sort of co-op memory game where you try to place and discover good cards while dispelling bad ones. You also get to pick a Disney hero (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Daisy, each with an edgy redesign) who has a special ability when a certain location is discovered. They’re not massively impactful and hard to get off, but it’s a fun little addition.

Each player places a card from their hand into the grid and then moves the grid to tell the other player what to do. “Discovered” cards are pushed towards the other player and activate, hopefully raising the magic meter or revealing a location that can help the team but sometimes revealing bad things like a Shadow card that raises the Shadow meter. When you “Dispel” a card it shifts horizontally and off the table, where it gets discarded harmlessly. The trick is that neither player is allowed to communicate, meaning you only have your own memory, trust, and intuition to guide you to the best outcomes. If the Magic meter fills first, you win! If the Shadow meter fills instead? You bring DOOOOM to the Kingdom!

The Verdict

I think there’s a lot of things to like about Shadowed Kingdom, but it’s not something that’s massively mind-blowing. The art is nice and the concept has potential, but it definitely felt limited by the format. While I think animation fans will appreciate some of the references, the cuts are so deep that I think the average Disney fan (the core market for things like this) won’t quite get it. And with only twenty-two cards, the more original concepts aren’t really introduced well, creating a strange half-and-half property that doesn’t work as well as it should.

That said, the gameplay moves quickly and is pretty interesting, though again it doesn’t really merge with the property that well. The characters all have more badass designs (Donald has a Viking helmet!) but don’t do much beyond sneak around. I’m not really a fan of games that discourage talking and this game entirely relies on it, but since it’s fast and just for two-players it’s not so bad. Overall not a terrible game and something Disney heads might enjoy, but I don’t think this can hold a candle to some of the Disney games that other companies are putting out.

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You can pick up a copy at the Mondo Shop, on Amazon, or at your FLGS, where it’ll run you about $20.

Images via Disney and Mondo Games

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