A Nation of Wind

Beanland.

Too easy a prey for fart puns.

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Some games are good mashups. Some aren’t. This one isn’t.

It’s not really about what genres are mixed, it’s more about how, and that’s where Flying Fartresses constantly misses the point.

The game begins after a very short ellipsis-obsessed intro that couldn’t be vaguer if it tried. Something something something clouds, something something something broken capital, something something something reunite people, and it’s as elucidating as it gets.

If you make a little effort, you can hear Christopher Walken narrating.

With a little effort, you can hear it in Christopher Walken’s voice.

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But we’re not here for the story. We don’t need it right away, it adds to the mystery. This is, after all, supposed to be an engaging experience of both strategic planning, city-building and action, right?

Wrong.

After a briefly informative tutorial, we appear as HMS Satan’s Bathtub amidst floating chunks of land, some as little moldy turds that can be pushed around for no apparent reason, others as big, solid, floating generic-RPG-overworld-meets-Minecraft continents. So solid, in fact, that a flying ship is unable to go over or below them. Go figure.

What is this "third dimension" you speak of? Heresy, I say!

What is this “third dimension” you speak of? Heresy, I say!

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In order to proceed through Flying Orange Penis,we’re supposed to take control of several obelisks by building temples to the four elements around them. Why? Dunno. But you can see right there a temple to Flatula, god of wind, gas, beans, and cheap lowbrow humor. So, why don’t we just build them temples and get on with it? Because we need resources. Farms supply food, forests wood, mountains stone, villages money, and all that jazz.

Seems straightforward. Plant a bunch of buildings, wait for their daily outcome, and… Hey, where’s my resources? And what are these balloons floating towards… Oh, I have to fly by the buildings to collect the resources? I see. Well, that would be interesting if the ship didn’t steer like a fucking walrus having a stroke on a skateboard. In addition to my having to go all the way around the islands because a vehicle capable of flight seems to have forgotten the notion of altitude, SS Poodle Dick’s controls are not only incredibly clunky, but the ship also takes ages to accelerate, assuming it hasn’t suddenly stopped because of a stray pixel. Correct me if I’m wrong, but even if there are movement upgrades along the way (I didn’t go very far, for fear of damaging my sanity), I don’t think “shitty controls at the beginning” is recommended anywhere as a game feature.

Why did I even get in here?

Why did I even get in here?

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It gets worse.

Where would a strategy game be without enemies? Random creatures of all kinds come through strange rifts, or whatever they’re called, along with some weird eggs we’re advised to take to safety and “hatch with food.” I’m sorry, I don’t feed food, thank you. If anything, I’d hatch them FOR food. At any rate, in the style of arcade shooters, we’re supposed to prevent these monsters from destroying our colonies, the defense capabilities of which are equal to jack shit. Ok, fine, there are turrets and walls, but that’s like expecting machine guns on top of the World Trade Center to have prevented 9/11. Most of the time, we need to roam around the entire map to check for attacks of various sorts, while hoping that our hard work hasn’t been pulverized by a dragon or eaten by giant ants. This is especially annoying at the beginning, when we might not be able to afford enough lighthouses to warn us of hostilities should we not be around a particular bit of floating ground.

This, however, is not the issue. The issue is directly connected to Titanic’s little brother, Tiny Tit, having awkward controls and being only one ship. Because when you have colonies sprawling all over a map, are thinking about how to optimize the output of your buildings, and counting the resources you need for expansion (a system which, by the way, could use some color coding for when you have enough or not), there is nothing better for your blood pressure than to be needed at three different places at the same time, having to decide which is both more important and more doomed at the moment, and having to fly there on a motherfucking manatee on drugs.

That’s exactly how it feels. It doesn’t feel like you’re commandeering a ship. It doesn’t feel like your empire is being attacked and you need a preemptive strategic thinking. It doesn’t feel like you’re amounting to anything. It feels like you’ve just heard a noise in the kitchen at 3 AM, you get up from the bed half-conscious and clumsily stumble down the stairs with a pair of scissors in your hands, hoping that when you trip, if you trip the right way, you’ll land on the burglar and stab him wherever.

It’s panic. Panic and an encouragement not to multitasking, but to ADHD, surrounded by a fluffy layer of boredom and frustrating controls.

Many ways to express your despair.

It does offer you many ways of expressing your despair.

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Also, the music, by Saskrotch, needs a lot more variety. A 2-minute loop that is repetitive in itself will drive anyone insane while playing what is supposed to have RTS elements.

My problem with Flight of the Cockords is that it constantly succeeds at frustrating any attempt at enjoying it. I just didn’t manage to go on for much longer. Maybe I’m a bad strategist. Maybe I’m acting like someone who can’t bear with a steep learning curve, but first consider that despite all of its hardships, I manage to enjoy Dwarf Fortress, for example. Granted, I used a graphics pack and didn’t go far yet, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get addictive. This doesn’t. This gets tiresome. After completing one level, the last thing on my mind is to go over the same thing.

Yes, I know, it’s just Jameson Wilkins making the game. I am in no way demeaning the work put into this, which is also visually gorgeous (never have I been betrayed so strongly by such nice visuals), but rather the final result. I know there’s turrets you can tow to strategic places, for example. There’s ways of getting around some of the problems I mentioned. But why is the way there so confusing? Where’s the little pull, the kick out of it? Many games are even fun to lose, why isn’t this one? Because the base itself is flawed: Too sprawled a game, too clunky controls. With those two core aspects fixed, this can go from exasperating brainfuck to addictive masterpiece. Right now, it remains the former.

3/10

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SSTTP: Eufloria

Isn’t there a flower shop with that name?

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Three words: Space gardening.

I was hoping for a third one as well, but it just stopped there.

Euflopia is a real-time ambient strategy game by Alex May, Rudolf Kremers and Brian Grainger in which you send seeds to colonize asteroids and plant Dyson trees to get more seeds, as a reference to Freeman Dyson and his hypothesis that tree-like lifeforms could grow on comets. That’s where the reference ends, because what we actually get is seedships firing lasers at each other.

PEW PEW PEW

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This minimalistic and quasi-ovarian take on space pollination looked promising until I realized that it was just the same thing over and over again spread across 25 not-that-procedural levels with increasing difficulty, accompanied by a flimsy “diseased seed invaders” storyline, the moral of which is that plants are dicks. Maybe I’m not suitable for this sort of games, but I can say that I had more fun with other flash games similar to this.

The environment is calm, perhaps a bit bland, hardly eufloric, and Brian Grainger’s music suits it perfectly. The little jingle that plays when you order your seeds to orbit another asteroid, however, is maddening. At least include an auto-send command so I don’t have to keep dragging every single little shit that is born light years away from where I am instead of leaving the matters of common sense to the modders. It’s like Nintendo expecting ROM hackers to come up with Z-targeting for Ocarina of Time.

Also, the main menu includes an “Unlock features” button. One would assume it’s the typical fresh new game gallery of question marks over things you have to unlock yourself, but no! It’s a menu where you can lock and unlock features at will, and even access all levels of the game. Talk about encouraging laziness. At least it allowed me to cut to the chase and realize that the biggest unlockable is just the same game, slightly harder and with a cooler background on all the levels. Maybe the whole game should have looked like this in the first place.

ÜNTZ ÜNTZ ÜNTZ

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4/10

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