From its thrilling classical score and delicious chalk drawing cutscenes, to its cast of charming characters, garbled narrative and sparkling visuals, Little King's Story is a majestic triumph from the team at CiNG and Rising Star Games.
It clearly takes elements from Nintendo's much-loved Pikmin franchise, but weaves them together with a broad range of its own fanciful ideas to create one of the best games I've played this side of Mario Galaxy.
You play the part of a young boy named Corobo, a lad who accidentally stumbles across a fabled golden crown while out in the woods. Placing the crown on his head, Corobo is transformed into the king of the land of Alpoko - a sleepy, ramshackle kingdom, inhabited by layabouts and loafers.
Taking advice from the marvelous mustachioed Howser the Bull Knight, you set out to transform Alpoko into a bustling, wealthy and all-conquering kingdom.
Starting out by recruiting townsfolk to search for treasure to build the nation's barracks and farmhouses, the seeds of your kingdom are sewn. What follows is an engrossing, slow-burning romp that encompasses global conquest, genocide, religion, epic battles, exploration and expansion...not forgetting the rescuing of fair maidens - all wrapped up in mouth-watering cutesy visuals which belie the game's darker themes.
Initially you can only command five people to explore the pastoral landscapes, with your small army of subjects diligently snaking conga-like behind the pint-sized king. As your expand your horizons new jobs and the ability to command more people becomes available, and each of your citizens can be transformed from skivers into worthwhile members of your fledgling realm. Soldiers, farmers, carpenters, lumberjacks, hunters and miners are just some of the noble professions awaiting your loyal subjects.
Each job class is essential to make progress, and weighing up what mix of characters to take with you on a particular mission requires careful thought. After all, there's nothing worse than celebrating a famous victory, only to find the way across the river is blocked as you didn't bring a carpenter to build a bridge.
Control is via the Wiimote and nunchuck, although the game completely eschews motion control. This is somewhat surprising considering how well it was implemented in the recent Pikmin ports on Wii, but it's not a huge issue. Pressing down on the d-pad cycles through the character classes, while pressing the 'A' button sends your chosen class into the task at hand.
Order a soldier to investigate a hole in the ground, and they'll simply take a peep down into the inky depths before scuttling back to your side. Send a farmer to take a look, and they'll excitedly dive in to unearth whatever treasure lies beneath. However, sending farmers and carpenters in to do battle with an army of angry cows will result in a massacre.
And you will definitely want to keep your individually named subjects free from harm. If a character dies, they can be resurrected, but it is not guaranteed, so learning to look after your army of chums is of paramount importance...unless, of course, you want to see you citizens in floods of tears.
Little King's Story might fool you into thinking the experience will be on the short side, but it's a huge adventure. Only when you reach roughly the four hour mark does the game truly reveal the gargantuan task ahead. New kingdoms waiting to be conquered litter the map, and what awaits are some of the most thrilling hours you will spend with your Wii.
Little King's story delights at throwing new experiences at you at every turn, and features a truly memorable cast of outrageous and colourful characters who are guaranteed to raise a rye smile. The experience is enhanced by wonderful art direction, outstanding stylised cutscenes, gorgeous lighting effects and a full day/night cycle - although no 480p support, unfortunately.
The game is packed with glorious little touches, and just watching your citizens go about their business is a captivating experience. They go to church and huddle together in conversation and when carpenters aren't busy, they spread out a picnic rug and have a smoke!
And there's more - people leave messages for you in the Suggestion Box most mornings, letting you know how well - or badly - you are running the country, citizens fall in love, get married, have kids, while at every turn, there seems to be something new to buy for your ever expanding whimsical empire. From small huts to flower shops and shopping centres, Little King's Story doesn't hold back in delivering new sights to keep you playing.
It is one of the most beautiful, charming and compelling games I have played in years. This is a game that should have TV advertising behind it, as it deserves to sell millions. Magnificent.