When Steam’s Greenlight was launched this September, I wasn’t sure of the caliber of games that would come out from the woodwork and onto the voting queues. I hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst. If there was any doubt for the quality of game that an independent developer can put out, there needn’t be any now.
Fly’n, created by Ankama Studio is a side-scrolling puzzle/collection/platformer about a sapling’s fight to stop an evil Dryer from sucking up everyone and everything in their tree and ruining the place where they and their tree critter friends live. To get the job done, your sapling travels throughout the tree and finds other sapling friends with different abilities like sticking to the walls or shooting out blocks that are in your way. There are lots of spores and seeds to collect which unlock different parts of your cocoon and you have a constant reminder of how many have yet to be found in the top left of the screen. There’s also an online leaderboard, to give already played levels some new life and challenge.
Fly’n has a whole handful of different mechanics you’ll need to use to get yourself around the levels. This includes your typical jumps, double-jumps and gliding, and not so typical singing. There is also a very Ikaruga style light and dark world-view that you can toggle to see objects and collectibles that you wouldn’t be able to see or use otherwise. Each of those actions are assigned to a different input button, and that’s not including the different saplings’ abilities and the air currents that you can float on. Adding to the tension is the red refuse that raises from the bottom of the screen, giving you incentive to keep climbing up from level to level. I played with an Xbox controller and could pull off the maneuvers required from me, but only just, and I think if I’d played with the keyboard I’d have have had a much different experience. With the gamepad, doing multiple jumps and glides while switching light and dark world views is fairly intuitive. I’m no platfomer slouch, but I can see myself dying over and over from hitting the wrong button at the wrong time with a keyboard and in a game like this. It would definitely go beyond a challenge and into frustrating territory.
From the backgrounds to the interesting and beautifully animated NPCs and dynamic music, to the overall artistic direction Fly’n is absolutely gorgeous. The whole game seems incredibly organic, especially in the cocoon, your house where your sapling hordes away all the treasures and collectibles he finds. There is also game art slide show viewer in with unlockable pictures and a mobile that looks like the buttons from an Xbox controller (which hints at what should be your weapon of choice for the game). The ‘New Game/Continue’ screen even uses a camera that pans up through the tree in the game’s introduction, which makes everything, even the menus themselves seem like a part of this vivid and vibrant world.
Fly’n has no voice acting aside from the main menu. There is no written story or directions within Fly’n and I suspect it’s because if Ankama, a French developer, did use a language it would be in French, and that would severely limit the people that would be able to jump into the game and get all they could out of it. And while the game does a great job of narrating using pictures instead of words, it does leave a little bit of guessing to do. Because of this minimalistic approach, figuring out what you’re supposed to do can be a little bit tricky. One such moment is at a point where you are supposed to change the world view, grab a sapling seed and then sing to a little creature in his house. There’s a large sign that said ‘LT’, so I press the left trigger. The sign then said to press ‘X’ so I stood in front of the little critter’s house pressing ‘X’ and singing and singing and singing, running back and forth, jumping, and tapping the singing button. I even tried to time the singing to the music in hopes that it was some sort of rhythm mini-game. After 10 minutes and getting an achievement for singing for so long, I shut the game off, and looked up the encounter on Youtube, only to find that you needed to grab a seed on the top left first in order to sing to the critter, and that this particular let’s play player had the same problem as I did. Unfortunately something is lost in the translation there. You’ll thank me when you get there.
Aside from that one blip, I thoroughly enjoyed Fly’n. The controls are solid and become second nature after a bit of playing. The boss fights are engaging and fun. The leaderboard and level rating system gives replay value which without it just wouldn’t be there. If you enjoy platforming, Fly’N has a lot to offer.
+ Very very polished for an indie game.
+ Lots of platforming and spore grabbin’ fun
+ Mechanics are engaging and the world is gorgeous
- Lack of written instructions sometimes leads to frustration
- Gamepad is pretty much mandatory
If you love jumping and gliding around within a magical world filled with cute little tree people and you’ve got a gaming controller, then you can’t go wrong with Fly’n.