Monday, 22 March 2010

Balloons, Cogs & Fog

Hello again, only one day as passed and already here's another great indie, we are definitely spoiled!

The Night Balloonists
.exe file, Fullscreen only

Possibly the most accessible game available, 2-4 player The Night Balloonists boasts an uber-simplistic control scheme, using one button for each player. One button. Explained both in-game and on their homepage as improving accessibility for disabled players, 2 man dev team Spooky Squid gain my respect as one of the only indie teams that implement this kind of thought process in their game design. Again adding to the accessibility, TNB also includes functionality with up to 4 Xbox 360 game controllers, using only the A button to control. Well played Squid!

A simple pick-up-and-play experience, 2 to 4 players each control their own respective hot-air balloon with the ability to drop (by holding the button down), or burst upwards with ink (double-press button). The playing field uses a "gust of wind" that rail-roads players around the level to collect small fireflies that appear. By using this wind to move left and right and around, combined with their up-and-down button, players can glide skilfully and serenely around the map to munch these little golden pyres.

The first thing to be said about the game experience is the lovely, lovely sound. That and the art design. Both. Combined. Lovely. The ever-popular steampunk style is instantly made much more interesting with the "art nouveau inspired" intertwinings, and the serene, calming ambience of the soundtrack embalms the player in near-instantaneous bliss. Lovely. The extensive list of forum users credited at the end of the game reflects the impressive list of bird calls, wind gusts and cog turnings, each adding to the experience indefinite. Oh, and my personal highlight of the game is the Flying Circus-esqe ending tune for the winner. Bloody brilliant.

The gameplay itself was reasonably fun, the one-button gimmick becoming a fun installation, once you've figured out your goal and game mechanics that is. For this, I had to recruit quickly my flat-mate Kenny, and both of us agreed the game was quite fun, the sound and art great, however both of us were quickly perplexed at the overall goal of the game. We knew we were to collect little glowing thingies, but had no idea if it was timed, or if there was a limit, or... anything. We just kept playing until something happened. Turns out we were timed, which was in no way displayed or indicated to us. Other than that, the fluidity of the game, the animation, the art, sound... it would be an understatement to call this game charming.

A more-than-charming little game, I would give it a look if you've got someone nearby looking for mini-fun.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dave! Just spotted your review. Thanks for playing Night Balloonists and glad you liked it. If you get a chance give it a try with three or four players, it definitely plays best with a group.

    Also thanks for the criticism on the lack of goal info. I hadn't realized we'd missed that in the instructions. I'll definitely fix that in in the next build!

    There is a minor visual indicator of time passing but it's very subtle and was more of an artistic touch then a anything else, the moon in the background traverses the sky and shortly before the level ends the sky starts to lighten.