According to Quebec-based developer Productions Multimage, the idea for their original installment of King Cashing came from combining “slot machine” and “RPG” in Kairosoft’s game-studio sim Game Dev Story. Turns out the compulsion factor present in both genres multiplied when they were smashed together.
Naturally, the developers haven’t strayed far from the formula in their sequel. Mechanically, King Cashing 2 is quite similar to its predecessor: By matching reels in slot machine battles, you acquire gold, experience points and items that you can use to strengthen your characters. It’s a basic three-reel, three-line setup, with the first reel housing your fighters, the second your weapons and the third your enemies. Match a fighter or a weapon with an enemy and your attack succeeds. Line up a fighter, a weapon and an enemy for extra damage, or a critical hit if the weapon is the fighter’s preferred type.
Of course, there are plenty of “MISS” spaces interspersed in each reel. And since each spin costs three cherries to play, wearing down the enemy’s HP before your currency runs out builds tension. But because you can stop each reel individually, you have greater control of the results than you would in Vegas. This is, in part, why the King Cashing formula succeeds: Combined with between-battle upgrading, the games generally produce the feeling that skill and strategy are just as important as luck.
The more dramatic change is apparent in the radical shift in tone from the first game. Whereas the original was a straightforward knights-vs.-monsters affair, King Cashing 2 casts your king and his followers—including a “cyborgette,” a Rambo lookalike, and an animal handler—as, everyone take a drink, zombies. (I wasn’t aware our federal government’s Every Game Must Contain Zombies law had spread to Canada, but apparently Productions Multimage got the memo.) Still, the rudimentary story, presented as a series of comic book pages, is as endearing as the refreshed art style. The occasional Easter egg lets us know the developers are in on the joke. One gets the sense they suddenly realized, a year after the fact, how ridiculous their game concept was—and then just went for it.
Yet the issues with the core mechanic have largely gone unaddressed. King Cashing 2 is, if anything, even more reliant on grinding for gold and XP than its predecessor, especially in the final stages as the cost to enter battles rises. (If earning gold felt a bit too easy in the first game, King Cashing 2 overcompensates the other way.) The short length of the game—it contains three comic book “issues,” with a fourth promised—is offset to some degree by the way it encourages replaying battles to earn better ratings, which you get by defeating enemies more quickly. But mostly, I found myself itching to get to the next page, ignoring the secret encounters I’d unlock by achieving silver medals.
In theory, gradually adding new powers to enemies, like weapon resistances and shields, should keep the player challenged throughout. But in practice, the randomness of the slot machine conceit, combined with the relatively inflexible and slow leveling-up system, makes for frustrating difficulty spikes. Stopping each reel where you want remains a very inexact science. When your attacks succeed, it often feels more like chance than skill. And this, ironically, works counter to the game’s implied hook: if the RPG elements don’t have a sufficiently tangible impact on slot machine battles, the delicate balance of the hybrid falls apart.
Still, like slot machines, King Cashing 2 retains a compulsive magnetism. While the game’s economy and leveling systems could have used a bit more fine-tuning, the temptation to spin ‘til you win persists between play sessions. It’s a good thing this machine only accepts fake money.
King Cashing 2
Developer: Productions Multimage
Release Date: 2/28/2013