Love it or hate it, Minecraft is one of the most popular games of the last decades and it even managed to “create” a new genre of games. Not only trying to cling onto the success but acknowledging the ingenuity the creators had deciding to add that extra layer of creativity and (literal) world-building into the adventure genre.
I imported a game not so long ago thinking I was getting into a new Terraria type of game but what I got was certainly different. If it’s better or worse… you’ll have to read the review to find out.
Airship Q is a 2D platformer kind of game with a big enphasis on crafting and the possibility to place blocks on the scenery to basically build into the world. Those concepts may strike you similar to the ones you can find in Minecraft and Terraria but the way Airship Q works it’s quite different.
For starters, the world isn’t procedurally generated, far from it. The world in Airship Q consists on diverse floating islands you can visit with your flying ship. Each of those are handcrafted and each one presents a challenge you have to tackle differently. Usually you just have to reach for some ancient temples hidden inside the islands but the difficulty on doing so will always be different. For example, one island may be growing thorned plants that you’ll have to cut through to progress or another island will have a giant tower you have to climb by building your own ladder within.
Those challenges indeed require you to make use of new tools you’ll have to craft and thus they’ll make you learn the intricacies of the game step by step which feels like a much different experience to the kind of completely open-ended survivalesque approach games like Minecraft and Terraria gives to the player.
The story in Airship Q feels like a classic fairy tale. You and your brother have built an airship to travel around this fantastic world but then he gets kidnapped and the witch turns you into a cat. So you have to run (or fly) all around the world to make things right again, turn into a regular kid and rescue your brother.
It’s not the most intrincate story or anything but it’s quite downplayed anyway. There is just a couple lines of dialog every now and then but for a kind of game like this, that’s a good thing. It’s serviceable and the characters are pretty lovable.
I should mention here that the version I’m playing is the asian physical release of Airship Q which, after it was updated, it’s completely translated to english so the story won’t be a problem to follow to any of you reading this.
Graphics-wise this doesn’t seem like the most demanding game out there really. It’s all 2D sprites and they’re not even that big themselves. Airship Q has certainly a retro look but it’s intended and it does look good.
The music has that retro flavour as well very reminiscent of the 8 bit era and it has some catchy beats. The only negative would be the character’s becoming a little annoying as he has to make some cat noise everytime he jumps, strikes or performs any other task for that matter.
Things I liked
- Physics: Each block has its own properties going from resilience to the very important weight. They can’t be just be placed in mid-air or arrayed on an infinite line without resulting in them eventually collapsing onto the ground. The physics also apply for water which runs down the surfaces and actually piles up in puddles and lakes or the light which actually is blocked by geometry not just fading by radius.
- Freedom: You may always have an objective but the way you achieve it it’s up to you. When you approach a new island you decide where to park your ship, how to traverse it by building or mining, the tools you’ll use… It gives the gameplay a more adventurous feel.
- Crafted: The way the world is built in Minecraft might make that world feel more believable that the floating islands displayed on Airship Q. But have your dungeons be made by hand by a team of game developers certainly has an advantage too. Each island is thought out and has mysteries to uncover that aren’t simple randomly placed blocks.
- Charming: What can I say? The retro style of the sprites and the music, the design of that antropomorphic cat pirate you play as… it’s all pretty cute.
Things I didn’t
- Control scheme: I could mention that the character jumps when you move the stick upwards (you can use X as well though) and that’d already give you a clue on how wrong the developers got the control scheme. The main offender is how the menus work though, changing tabs and crafting is made unnecessarily more clumsy because of it.
- Farming: On this kind of game it is expected to be required to farm for materials but, with the way the map is built having the world be separated by floating islands. You’ll have to travel back and forth to collect certain materials more often than not and it makes you feel like the game is wasting your time.
- Clueless: The tutorial will tell you which buttons do what actions and it will tell you the functions of the most basic tools but from there on, you’re on your own. Not having the game hand-holding you feels refreshing until you get stucked or you commit some stupid mistake that effectively makes you throw an hour of your life down the drain. On the internet you’ll be able to find a ton of tips useful for noobs for a game like Minecraft but finding tips for Airship Q in english? Fat chance.
Who’d like this?
I honestly could see this game becoming a cult classic in the future. It’s charming, it has a very solid gameplay foundation and it’s quite deep. It’s far from perfect though and you might be dissapointed if you’re expecting a new survival game in the vein of Terraria because it is not. Airship Q it’s its own thing and that’s fine by me.