Reviews: Then the kid fell off the world to his death - just kidding. Supergiant Games's new XBLA game rebuilds itself in the shape of a masterpiece.
kicked off this year's XBLA Summer of Arcade in style, with ultra-detailed 2D graphics, which will certainly be everyone's initial attraction to this game. However, they are far from what you will remember... There is a sense of unparalleled immersion and cohesion between player and game that really hooks Bastion together by way of a flowing voice-over narration. Sounding somewhere between Firefly's Ron Glass and whisky-fuelled singer Mark Lanegan, this continuous vocal fluidly knits together a storybook companion to your on-screen exploits with astonishing accuracy. The sheer quality of the timing and delivery of every syllable is enough to keep you playing level after level, not knowing quite how long you've been at it.
Your character in Bastion is trying to rebuild his world, something that happens as he traverses what initially seems like a small rock floating in the sky. As ?the kid? runs about, pieces of geometry and structures hurtle together to make a path for him and as he gets further through the gateways from the hub of the titular Bastion, things start to diverge and constrict in ways you wouldn't expect. The isometric viewpoint is a winner with the game's combat, allowing a perfect view of the action with some scope for retreat and knowing when to dodge. Your character's actions are like those of a classic scrolling fighting game like Streets of Rage
but with the addictive levelling-up and expanding of tricks like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance
. The ranged weapons are easy to aim and the game gives you the opportunity to learn the best use of them in bonus stages early on. The foundation of the combat gives players an instantly familiar place to dive into, which enables the developers to begin the rich over-arching story without fear of overload.
It's very hard to describe what Bastion actually is without mentioning some previous alumni from the Summer of Arcade showcase. In 2009, Braid
arrived on XBLA and brought a new type of Role Playing / Platform game to the world. Although no term has been coined for it, I like to refer to it as the Platforming Epic, something as much about the story told from beginning to end as it is about getting from A to B by cunning skill and well-timed jumps. Last year, Limbo
arrived almost exactly twelve months after Braid and with its beautifully bleak art direction and minimalistic story clout, it fit nicely into that non-genre too. While Bastion is not exactly a platform game, it too seems to fit into this exclusive club, as it shares many of the qualities that made the others so great, along with the occasional fall into oblivion. It's driven by a tumbling story with unique, stylized visuals that are as much a part of the game as the individual gameplay components. It has an incredible soundtrack. Most importantly, it finds a way to take all of these very attractive elements and blend them together with a very simple game design and make it more than the sum of its parts.
At 1200 Microsoft Points, Bastion is probably the best value for money you'll get all year. Upon completion you unlock a New Game Plus mode that give longevity and replayability to a game that is already a nicely weighted experience. The quality of downloadable games on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network are getting ever closer to that of full retail releases and in the case of Bastion it's easy to see why more and more developers are moving into this area of the industry. It's great to see more and more small companies coming along with great innovative ideas and with Braid, Castle Crashers, Limbo and now Bastion all contenders for Game of the Year each given year, the global gaming industry has no excuse but to support the talent behind them. Bastion sits among the best of this community of games, not far from the very top of the pile.