The Beauteous Drifing of Interstellar Death Machines
NOTE: The italicized sections of this review are taken from actual play. While they are intended to give you some insight into the game, they may also contain certain spoilers. Should you wish to encounter all of the fantastic sights of the game firsthand for yourself, then you may want to avoid reading them.
Greetings, ugly meat bucket. I am Expert Kisser Captain Thaddeus Gorfboggle, Eighth in the line of illustrious Gorfboggles. I am the first Expert Kisser, however, and for that, I am proud.
We Gorfboggles seem to suffer from a hereditary disease, which strikes at around the same time in our lives, consistently. Its onset is signaled by the purchase of two missile destroyers from the nearby shipyard. Once we have done this, we know that we have only 7 months left to live. So why would we remain on our crappy, agrarian homeworld, "Tutorial?" I mean...it's crappy. You wouldn't want to live your last 7 months there, and no Gorfboggle has, either.
So we set out with our destroyers, into the softly lit void, in the hopes of finding something with which to fill our final days. This...is the record of my 7 month journey towards death.
There's another game out there, kinda like this one. It's entitled Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. I guess its sequel, Weird Worlds, counts too. These games randomly generate a new galaxy every time you start your space journey with just your one ship, and a limited supply of fuel that inherently gives the game a countdown clock to conclusion. There are planets, and at each one you can find something, though not necessarily something that you want to find...or something that wants to be found. Often, these unwanted somethings have weapons, and tend to shoot with frightening accuracy. But you will have already disturbed them by that point, and will be hard pressed to escape your two-dimensional space battlefield with your ion drives intact.
These games were often accused of being experiments, not games. Being satisfying little ditties that you could play happily enough for twenty minutes, but nothing of true substance or value. Interesting, fun for a bit...but to be discarded when used thoroughly.
I do not believe I ever agreed with such opinions.
My primary criticism of Strange Adventures was that it never felt like I had enough control. I enjoyed it, absolutely, and I adored the randomly generated galactic webs the game would whip up for me. But there was no way for me to do better, it felt like. I would just have to start over, and hope that next time, I didn't get raped up the bum by some photon torpedoes.
By the way, remember: photon torpedo rape is a serious problem. It is never funny.
Enter Flotilla, the latest effort of Blendo Games, the company of Brendon Chung (whose name is startlingly wonderful, and yet somehow...just a little bit...wrong). The notable work which introduced me to his impressive creations, Gravity Bone, is still available for free download. If you haven't played it yet, I highly recommend that you do. But really, Gravity Bone and Flotilla have very little in common, except for one thing: style. And that one thing is ever so important.
Destination One: Okralela
My intrepid crew and I discovered two comely space hitchhikers, Billina Henning and Pretzel. Their names needed work, true, but I decided, out of the kindness of my heart, to give them a ride. Of course, then I noticed the rather attractive large piece of cargo they were lugging around. So, out of the kindness of my heart, I robbed them blind and fled. But I successfully stole a Bleso Rail Chamber, which I installed into my ship, Eleven Burning Ray. Yes, the crew of my second ship, the Five Dark Spider, got screwed in that deal, but nobody likes them anyway. Bunch of jerks.
Never mind the fact that Flotilla offers up quite a solid three dimensional combat system, on which you could certainly while away hours of time. Never mind that the game has an interesting blend of tactics and exploration-based elements, along with all the joy of finding new ships and getting new upgrades. Let's talk about what really matters.
The fact that every time you finish putting in your orders for the turn-based, simultaneous three dimensional space combat and click the "End Turn" button, soft, lilting classical music pours out of your speakers, transforming what is actually a duel to the death between armed starships into a sort of strange, murderous ballet of twisting and spinning polygons, on a background of asteroids and metallic debris.
The fact that aliens really aren't — they're all just animals wearing clothes, talking, but each animalien bears (heh) a unique set of characteristics, like those damned snooty deer and their damned medal-studded uniforms and their damned battleships. (Note to self: Start writing young adult book series about "Animaliens." Earn shit tons of money. Sell out to Hollywood. Buy Hawaii. Die happy.)
The fact that at game's start, you will be given a randomly determined epithet, which can range from "handsome" to "huggable" to, of course, "expert kisser".
The fact that every single bit of prose you will read in this game is somehow tinged with a smile, like you can just imagine the narrator standing behind the screen, smirking, waiting for you to join in and start laughing at the joke.
Destination Seven: ?
We encountered a strange multicolored phenomena on our radar. Going with the whole "I'm going to die anyway" philosophy, I told my flotilla to speed towards it...and we encountered Afrodita, the Hot 'Fro Goddess of Space! On a Unicorn! With a Green Cyber Glove! And Ivory Bikini! And did I mention the Fro!
I thought this was perhaps our best find. Until shetore out my eye with her Green Cyber Glove.
That shit hurts.
But then she gave me her gauntlet, and told me to strike forth or some shit. I wasn't really listening at that point, I was rolling on the ground, bleeding out my eye socket. I had to hear it reported to me later by my first mate, Two-Eyed Willy.
In terms of pure, game-feature offerings, Flotilla allows for multiplayer, as long as you have an Xbox 360 controller to plug into your computer (or, if you got it on the Xbox360 for half-price, then all you need is a second controller).The game has a skirmish mode right alongside its adventure mode. The skirmish mode will send you right into its excellent combat system, let you pick the ships on either side, and get right into the battle. I want it to be clear that this system is really quite good; I found myself clenching my fists a number of times as I desperately hoped that my plugged in maneuver would work. But other reviews have commented more upon the combat system, so I thought I wouldn't go into it as much here.
What I really think cannot be emphasized enough is that this thing is not an experiment. This is a game. This is a game of warped, bizarre humor, undermining space opera and gaming conventions with the alacrity of a skilled satirist. This is a game in which you are offered up constant dual-choice decisions, in which you never can quite tell which choice is the "right" one; you just have to choose, and hope that later on, those space hitchhikers you robbed won't come back to fight you. (Spoiler: They do.)
Destination Thirteen: Peaumga
There are yetis on my ship. As in, abominable snowmen. Apparently from space, too. Space snowmen. They appear to have been the pets of my navigation officer, Lt. Miami Khan. They were chewing on the electrical conduits of my ship. My one remaining ship.
I vented those fuckers into the void.
This is a game that simultaneously gave me a combat system to play in, to strategize in, while also giving me a randomized world, through which I could form the story of my own fatally infected, mildly insane captain, as he stole, fought, and karaoke'd his way across the stars.
You can probably get through any given session of this game with about 20 minutes to a half an hour. But if you're at all like me, and this beautifully in-character experience snags you, you'll be coming back for more. And more. And more.
And it's only ten dollars, people. Five if you get it on the Xbox 360.
Trip Fifteen: Androanga.
I died. And I hadn't gotten that treasure yet. Freaking toucans.
Don't ask about the toucans. You don't want to know.