Umbrella Adventure: The Castle of Cake

By: Paul Eres

On: February 5th, 2010

Q: Umbrella Adventure? Is that the super-secret unique new game project I hear you have in the works? Is there anything you’d like to share with us about it? Please?

A: Oh, it’s not super-secret, it’s just that no-one asks. It’s called Umbrella Adventure: The Castle of Cake, and centres around a gopher, his umbrella, a very talented but slightly insane unicycling weasel, an emotionally fragile talking fairground hook-headed rubber ducky, and the heinous theft of several hundred very delicious cakes. Before I lose the entire audience I should probably add that the musical score is performed by a friend of mine on acoustic guitar and is superb, and that all the graphics are hand-drawn. […] It’s every bit as serious as it sounds.

(From an Abandonia: Reloaded interview of Srehpog conducted in 2006.)

Umbrella Adventure has a huge world; you collect new abilities and cakes. My own experiences with the game were pleasant but not entirely pleasant. I liked the soundscape, the stylistic hand-drawn art, the size of the world, the basic structure of the game, and much else. I didn’t like the controls, that there was no way to quickly travel across the huge world (that I ever found – there actually was a way), that you often had to get past the same obstacles and enemies again and again, and that there was no real motivation to collect the cakes other than that they could be collected. I make a habit to finish every game before I review it, and so far this game has taken me the longest time to finish (by far) — about three months, as much because of frustration and difficulty (and my own poor platforming skills) as game length.

The game goes like this: you play, die a bunch of times, see a bunch of cakes you can’t reach, finally after much difficulty get a new ability, and then either backtrack to get the cakes you missed or just continue on; I usually just continued on, because there there is no functional use of collecting the cakes. Occasionally a puzzle appears which you either get stuck at forever, figure out, or ask for help on. And the world just keeps getting bigger: this is definitely a game for the people who felt VVVVVV wasn’t worth the $15 (and this one’s free). It’s much more of a world that you leave and return to occasionally over time, each time seeing a new part of it, or getting a new cake.

Srehpog, of HiVE, is also the developer of Ark 22 and Sushi! Waxy’s Sushi Party. Trivia: Ark 22’s characters were originally all gophers, like the main character in Umbrella Adventure.

You see, the feeling I felt playing this game at first… not a very good feeling. The deaths that occur with blind jumps, not being able to attack in mid-air… and shortly dying afterwards, … it was punishment. Very unintuitive. And you know what, fuck that shit… but then I felt like I wasn’t being fair and gave it another go. And that is when I discovered magic, no… not magic, but something close to it, or maybe a bit far, you get the idea. Because you see, magic is very special, and there is only one magic, and I already possess it. rediscovering magic would be pointless! like giving birth to the child you already gave birth to… why two of the same child? Are they twins? Or maybe two-headed… no… this is scary.

(From an eva-jolli review of Umbrella Adventure.)

  • mosh

    there there

  • Jabberwock

    It’s a great game, but definitely a daunting task to play through all the way; I agree with your criticisms of the controls and the frustrating gameplay. I am in love with the graphics and the soundtrack though.

  • deadeye

    A gopher? I thought it was a cat. Well what do you know.

    Anyway, it’s a pretty decent game. I love the art, but yeah the controls were frustrating. And as I recall the edges of platforms were rather ambiguous, as were the bits that you had to hook your umbrella onto. Haven’t played it in a while though, I could be remembering wrong…

  • GZ

    I was never a fan of Ark 22. I think it had some good ideas, but I found it was far too rough around the edges and unpolished to actually sit through and finish it.

    Umbrella Adventure is the exact opposite on the other hand, where the game looks great and feels very polished, but the gameplay and how things flowed didn’t grip me.

    I’ll say though, after reading this article I think I’m going to give UA another shot.

  • ShawnF

    So uh, anyone else think it’s a little weird that tigsource is ignoring the IGC? $300k for an indie game competition seems worth noticing.

  • Phasma Felis

    I could wish they’d spent a little more effort on the animation and physics of the main character. The still art is beautiful, but the gopher-dude’s stiff and choppy movement and the really weird ways he interacts with e.g. ropes kinda damage things for me.

  • !CE-9

    It looked really promising (more than that: charming and intriguing), but the slowdowns (on a 2GHz, 4GB, ATI Mobility Radeon HD4570?) and some strange bugs and the main character’s physics have killed the interest I had for this game. It is a bummer.

    HiVE seems to have a lot of spirit and character, so I’ll be looking forward to their next endeavours.

  • MisterX

    Despite annoying slowdowns which I also encountered on my fairly good (i.e. “should definitely be good enough”) machine, I really, really liked playing through Umbrella Adventure. I agree that it’s lacking in several respects, but technical issues aside I didn’t encounter any problem I couldn’t get used to rather easily.

    If you can put up with the shortcomings and play through Umbrella Adventure without frustration, you may find that it’s a highly atmospheric and very lengthy, varied and creative game :)
    For me, it was certainly one of the best indie games I’ve played.

  • Deacon Blues


    Be glad they’re even covering games any more. Games that aren’t worth playing, sure, but worth writing an aimless review about.

  • Radnom

    If you’re confused about the gopher thing, consider the developer’s name: Srehpog

  • Derek

    @Deacon Blues – do you have any recommendations? Most of the indie games I’m excited about playing right now are still in development.

  • instant action

    there needs to be more games with animal characters in it. especially as the main player.

    it makes things more interesting.

  • Laura

    “there needs to be more games with animal characters in it. especially as the main player.”

    I agree! I’m always saying I miss the old Disney cartoons like Ducktales or Gummi Bears. They used to have animal protagonists all the time, but not so much these days.

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  • ShawnF

    @Derek – So since you’re reading this, what’s with the IGC snub? I notice it’s even missing from the EventRoll on the sidebar.

  • paul eres

    “The INDEPENDENT GAME CONFERENCE aims to remove the sales pitches and replace them with sessions geared toward the needs of game industry professionals. This two-track conference will deliver sessions that address the technology and business issues and answer the question “How do I make my company successful?””

    sounds kinda overly professional to me; i can’t imagine enjoying it

  • Derek

    I *think* he’s talking about the Indie Game Challenge, not the Independent Game Conference. Shawn, I hadn’t heard of either of those things before today. Next time, please post a link or at least write out the acronym.

  • ShawnF

    Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I just assumed you had heard of it since I’ve seen it mentioned on the other indie news sites I visit and the prize pool is so monstrous.

  • Valter

    It’s a pity, really. The problems with this game aren’t seen with the characters, or the style, or even the structure, but instead are nestled deep into the very design of the game itself. It’s difficult to fix issues like that. You can’t just modify one or two lines of code and have a better game- you have to overhaul just about everything.

    The key issue was too many cakes that look possible to get, but actually aren’t. The majority of the early screens need either a major revamp that shows explicitly which cakes are within and without reach, or a fuckload of signs that tell you what tool you need to be able to get each cake.

  • paul eres

    one option would be to give each cake a variable indicating the highest ability required to reach that cake, and then show the cake as semi-transparent if that ability hasn’t yet been acquired by the player

  • MisterX

    I don’t think of that as a general problem, but totally a matter of opinion, which likely goes along with the debate about how much “hand-holding” games should provide.

    I can understand that for some it may be annoying not to know which cakes can be collected at a specific point in the game. On the other hand I, who already greatly enjoyed the game anyway, had a lot of fun with trying to get to cakes in different ways, looking for the right paths to them, and trying to figure out if I might need another ability to reach them or not.
    I can’t say that it’s generally ideal, but for me personally it mostly really was.

  • Sol

    A really great game!!! I love the atmosphere! BTW controls not frustrating at all if you play with GAMEPAD!!!

  • paul eres

    yeah, a gamepad helps a lot, although still even with a gamepad i had problems with getting the pogo stick to trigger correctly (etc.)