'Bastion' Blends Monster-Smashing Fun With Great Color Commentary
"Bastion" is a role-playing game with plenty of hard-hitting action. The player character is never short on monsters to smash, shoot and obliterate. The game lays out its world in an interesting fashion, and the soundtrack is well-done also. But perhaps the best part is the reactive narration -- as you play, a narrator adds excellent and often hilarious color commentary.
The action role-playing game "Bastion" has been around on the Xbox 360, PC, Mac and a few other places for a while now, but I failed to notice or care until I stumbled upon it in the App Store on my iPad 2. It has fighting action, so that's good. I'm a sucker for hammers, pistols and bows. It has a lush and vivid landscape. Fantastic.
And yet none of this sparked me to download and buy. The excellent reviews kept my interest, but it wasn't until I learned that "Bastion" comes with a reactive narrator that comments during gameplay that I decided to give it a whirl.
Best $4.99 I've spent in a month.
How It Plays
In the game, you play as The Kid -- a kid who happens to know how to wield weapons -- and you awaken to a world that has been destroyed by a mysterious calamity. As you walk around, the landscape rises beneath your feet and features fall into place, building you paths to explore and directing your movement at the same time. I was immediately delighted by this action. I'm not a gamer, so I don't know if the style is new, but it was new to me.
Meanwhile, as The Kid, you learn that as you explore, you'll have to fight a wide variety of monstrous creatures, often many at once. Along the way, you'll need to collect items to help rebuild the Bastion, which is the place the people of The Kid's world were supposed to go in the event that anything went wrong.
As I played, I learned to tap and drag to get the nimble Kid to go where I wanted. I was a little worried about attacking since The Kid is sort of small, but on the iPad, attacks are more automatic than not -- it's about putting the kid in the right place and he'll automatically start smashing, slicing or blasting. You have to pay attention and remember to tap a shield button, but it's not that hard.
You're also supposed to collect various artifacts, currency, potions and building materials along the way. These things give you more experience, more effective weapons, new weapons, and help you to level up and keep going as the foes get tougher.
You're Going to Get a Kick Out of the Narrator
Everywhere you go and everything you do is commented on, or subtly directed, by a narrator with a tough and wise voice, who you fairly quickly figure out comes from a stranger in the game. When you fall off the edge of the path, he ribs The Kid with some comment. He also directs and even sort of cheers The Kid on at times as he kicks some monster butt.
There are 3,000 lines of narration, according to Supergiant Games. But does it blend? Let me put it this way: While the painted cartoonish landscape is amazing -- and the way the landscape builds itself as you navigate is cool -- the narration is freaking great.
Early on, it was nice to know there was a purpose to the game, that it had a plot that was directing you somewhere, and the narrator helps provide hints along the way. It didn't take long for me to form a favorable impression. After defeating a foe with a hammer, I wandered around this area beating up boxes and gravel piles to reveal nothing or occasionally a bit of currency to pick up. And I'm smashing this and smashing that and going around in circles and in a deadpan voice, the narrator says, "The Kid just rages for awhile."
Here's some more flavor. A bit later, The Kid goes to a new section, and after he falls into the area, the narrator says, "Now he lands at the intersection between bad and wrong."
Normally, that sentence would sound stupid, but in Bastion, with the attitude of the narrator and the sheer style of the game environment evoking a sense of delight, the over-the-top narration is pleasantly spot-on.
Ah, and here's another comment that came after I was getting beaten up by some creature: "Blasted things hurt like a broken heart."
It's just damn fun, that's what I'm saying. It's full of fun, as if the game developers knew they were having the time of their lives creating this game. And it shows everywhere. Joy just oozes out of the pores of "Bastion."
Lots of Standard Quest and Fighting Action
All in all, "Bastion" is surprisingly well-rounded. You can't go anywhere without getting into a fight, and everywhere you go, you'll find things that you'll need to grow stronger, fix the Bastion, or level up to beat more foes. You can choose to equip The Kid with different kinds of weapons, with different kinds of special attacks, and all of this keeps you thinking a bit as you work your way through the game. Much of the time, though, you can survive simply by offering up a frenetic mess of tapping and swiping and blocking. And that's perfect because it means that a guy like me can actually play this game and have fun doing it.
Bastion is $4.99 for the iPad version and $14.99 for the Mac OS X version. If you go with the iPad version like I did, it's a steal. At 8-10 hours of game play for the average person, that's about 50 cent per hour of entertainment. And the value of the Mac version? Pretty good, too, I imagine.
Oh, one last thing: Wear headphones. The sound track is simply fantastic. (Are you tired of me gushing yet? I'm wearing myself out doing it -- I am simply out of fanciful adjectives.) Parts of the sound track reminded me of the western sort of theme music from the old TV series "Firefly." If your Mac is hooked up to a decent speaker system -- or you can connect your iPad to one -- play it loud.