Construct 2 Spotlight : Airscape
There seems to be a common belief among certain areas of the gamedev community that somehow only games made with the most complex engines are worth publishing and selling. A game engine snobbery of sorts. Of course, every engine has its flaws and strengths, and with my favoured engine being Construct 2, I thought I’d highlight one of the games that has been commercially released using this engine. Step forward, Airscape : The Fall of Gravity, a gravity-shifting platformer that released earlier this year with a fistful of awards in hand but utterly failed to sell on release, prompting the creator to post a rather depressing post-mortem that you can read here : Link . With that in mind, I set out to give the game a go myself.
The first thing that hits you about Airscape is that while it looks good visually, the aesthetic and ambience of the game is what makes it feel good. The world feels real, and yet so unreal, in that magical sort of way that only good games manage, with little tweaks like foliage rustling as you dash past giving a real sense of place. There is a good variety of landscapes and none feel rushed out or unfinished, with each of them having something unique to see in the background. The whole world evoked a very World of Goo feeling in me, especially with the in game level select being basically a giant map of the world, with each level rendered in tiny detail, giving a small hint of what was to come. Backing it all up is an orchestral soundtrack with plenty of depth that changes between areas. It’s a good change from plenty of indie games that just have one piece of menu music and one piece of in game music that ends up simply looping throughout the hours of play.
The menu and UI offer a decently customisable setup, with happily the controls being fully remappable. Graphical options and tweaks are decent, especially for a Construct 2 game. Best of all is an option that slows or speeds up the screen rotation speed. As you will end up spinning and flipping around the landscape rather often throughout the game, this is a very welcome addition.
On to the gameplay itself. While the platforming is solid and responsive, the main hook of the game is the gravity shifting. This at its most basic level has the player crossing the game world, saving your friends and avoiding enemies, while jumping from platform to platform with minor changes of gravity on the way. Access to later areas in the game is dependant on how many friends you save, but you can skip levels where you don’t save anyone, giving you plenty of choice over how you progress.
Before too long, the difficulty ramps up and things get much more interesting, with more intelligent enemies and harder obstacles to dodge, coupled with some ridiculous changes in gravity that will test your dexterity to a Super Meat Boy-esque level. Luckily, as you progress further into the game, you unlock different player characters that you can switch between at the beginning of each level, and each character has a special ability that you can activate. Going back to previous levels with a new character to pick up that last friend you missed or just to see an alternate solution is a joy in itself.
Sadly for me, around the time of the 4th character being unlocked the difficulty went past the point that it was enjoyable and I found myself getting frustrated and wanting to try all the characters, but sticking to a chosen few just to be able to finish the levels. A great example is you have this new, interesting character that has a great ability, but doesn’t have the jump height to get across or over some jumps. Sometimes it wasn’t even apparent that a certain character couldn’t finish a level until the exit portal was agonisingly close.
What was odd about this is that in the last section of the game, this frustration just stops. The game is still hard, but not frustratingly so. All the characters feel viable and less randomly picked to be ‘the one’ to complete the level. It’s just plain odd. Follow that up with a decent end game boss that is tough, but checkpoint saves you often so you don’t get frustrated, and I found myself wondering what happened in the third quarter of the game. I even replayed it to ensure it just hadn’t somehow got worse at the game for a few days, but the frustrating sections were still there.
With the above said, the rest of the game I found wholly enjoyable, with a great aesthetic and a decent difficulty curve throughout most of the game. The game is also decently priced, and has a demo that shows off some of the mechanics of the game well. This game is certainly worth your time and money, and in general Steam reviews seem to agree… and yet, sales have still been somewhat weak. So why is this the case?
I referenced World of Goo above once already, and during my playtime Airscape seemed to reaffirm this vibe, not in gameplay, but in its presentation. Cutesy creatures trying to survive across surprisingly varied and interesting landscapes with all manner of things trying to kill them, while a delightful ambience chimes away in the background. This is of course, a positive thing, as World of Goo is renowned for its atmosphere, its just I wonder if to some this may seem a little bit like cloning something successful. The thing is, I don’t even think the game is trying to be similar or was made with similarities in mind, but those are the feelings it evokes in me, and others may feel the same. In addition to this familiar feel, I see some players rolling their eyes, unfairly, at ‘another 2D side scrolling platformer with a little quirk’. Which just seems unfortunate to me, as it is effectively writing off a whole genre of games just because they play a little similarly. Maybe this kind of game would sell better on mobile, I’m really not sure. I guess it just further proves that sometimes a game being good and having all the right ingredients is not enough to make it sell.
I hope the team behind Airscape get enough funding to keep creating new games. I heartily recommend you give Airscape a go. You can find out more info on the games website here : http://www.airscapegame.com/