Airheart: The friendly skies
Roguelike indies have been a part of our lives for quite a few years now and as common as they may have become and how many of them we may have seen, sometimes new titles find a way to get us hooked again. Enter AIRHEART, creation of Blindflug Studios, the game which gives us control of Amelia, a girl living in a city in the sky, striving to make ends meet by building airplanes and collecting skyfish.
The studio that brought us Cloudchasers on mobile devices is now back with a title, on Steam this time, that continues the story of little Amelia. After having braved the five deserts with her father, she now lives in the sky city, where the lower class of citizens live in the bottom of the big floating rock that the city resides on. The game gives us control of Amelia and it is up to us to take her on skyfaring adventures with the purpose of catching skyfish in order to be able to pay for parts and other things, improve our airplane and generally keep moving forward and up in the world.
Very much like the sense of class in the sky city, the sky has its own layers too. The first few layers we visit are somewhat harmless with few pirate airplanes roaming around and small fish to catch. Every time we complete certain objectives in the layer we are at, we can choose to go even higher. Those objectives can either be catching some fish or destroying a big pirate ship. When we have taken too much damage, it is safe to press the descend button and start falling through all the layers, avoiding all floating islands during our fall and trying to land on the city itself. Sounds very simple, but this is where the roguelike element of the game comes in since if we do not land on the city itself and somehow miss it, the game ends right there and then.
Explanations aside, let’s get to the judging part of this review.
I cannot say I really enjoyed the fact that the game ends so abruptly should you miss the city itself. The narrative of the whole thing does make a lot sense if you think about it, since you do crash land in the desert and you have no way of going back up, but other than that it serves no other purpose than that of a hard reset. Some may like it, some won’t. So it is not really up to me to say if it is entirely good or bad.
Next to that, I have to say that I loved playing Cloudchasers on my mobile phone and after having gone through quite a few crazy adventures with Amelia and her dad, I fell in love with the whole world and narrative that Blindflug Studios had created. Because of that, I was pretty stoked to see that a continuation to the series was now coming out on Steam and even more so, was focusing on a grown-up Amelia who is now an airplane mechanic and a pilot. However, there is little to no real sequel story to what we saw in Cloud Chasers as Amelia does not really play a major part in the game. She is just there to look cool in the garage and sometimes say a few things, but other than that, that is pretty much her role.
Sure, we get to explore the skies above the deserts for the first time ever and we even get to uncover some secrets and legends (not going to spoil it) but it is generally a game that focuses on the airplane roaming, shooting and skyfishing parts. To be completely fair though here, the game does that part exquisitely well and I have to say that it was a blast learning to play the game both with a controller as well as with keyboard and mouse.
The control of the airplane is very satisfying once you get the hang of it and performing tricks with your grappling hook on enemies and various surfaces becomes increasingly fun the more you play the game. The upgrades available for purchase in the garage are also quite intuitive and despite just offering increased stats, their aesthetics actually give you good reasons to save up and try and buy the next best thing for your airplane. The scrapping system was sort of too much for me and even though it did provide some extra content for the player to play around with, I am sure it could have been a bit more experimental in the sense that it could allow us to do even more crazy things with our airplane while flying.
Last but not least, the music of the game was quite good but not something you would remember the next day either, whereas the art followed the same style that Blindflug Studios started with in Cloudchasers, only more beautiful this time and even more unique. Every single part of the world feels very bright and full of life (yes, even the pirate’s airplanes) and this just gives off a very playful feeling that enhances gameplay a lot. This is all amplified by the fact that the game also actually has a naturally evolving habitat which works like a real environment where different species appear due to overfishing and other effects that may take place.
You can find AIRHEART on Steam for the price of 12,99€.
If you are a fan of roguelike games, AIRHEART is definitely a title that will keep you company for quite a while, making you want to revisit it every now and then for a quick run over the sky full of fish (and other bigger fish). Might be a bit disappointing on the narrative side since we got to know Blindflug Studios as an adept in that matter but it is still a very satisfying game to play.
+ Great sense of control of your airplane during gameplay making it increasingly fun
+ Beautiful graphic style, playful and unique
+ Good selection of features to keep things interesting
– Quite dull on the story side of things
– Very punishing for little reason if you mess up
~Constantine “Kelfecil” Christakis