Battle through a broken world in Bastion
The first time you hear the tune, it’s just another part of the beautiful, bluesy soundtrack that accompanies your journey. Only after you’ve learned more about its singer do you realize it’s the embittered protest song of an oppressed people. This and countless other beautifully subtle details lift Bastion (Mac App Store) several cuts above the action-adventure-RPG crowd.
At its heart, Bastion resembles every other quest-adventure game since The Legend of Zelda: Explore, get stuff, fight monsters, level up. But its eight creators at ironically named Supergiant Games (the game is distributed by Warner Bros.) have surrounded this trusty core with fun and inspired embellishments. A mysterious Calamity has shattered the city of Caelondia. As a nameless kid with a trusty sledgehammer, you’ll journey through the ruins, bits of the broken world rising up beneath your feet. Your goal: Find components to revive the Bastion, a safe haven for any survivors not turned to stone.
Bastion boasts beautifully hand-painted environments, though its occasional depictions of characters as saucer-eyed super-cute midgets clashes with the game’s somber storyline. In the game’s most clever twist, a gravelly-voiced old man narrates your story as you play it, dynamically reflecting your actions and choices. His dry humor leavens the game’s pervasive, wonderful melancholy – and occasionally suggests that he knows more than he’s saying about the Calamity.
Though Bastion offers many hours of gameplay, Supergiant keeps each level addictively short and impressively varied. Just when you think you know how things will play out, they toss in some new wrinkle to surprise you. The game balances fast, furious, fluid action with strategic resource allotments. You’ll have to pick the right potions, weapons, and upgrades to get you through each level. If the game feels too easy, invoke various gods at the Bastion’s Shrine to up the difficulty and earn extra rewards.
Need a break from the quest? Fiendishly tricky challenge levels for each weapon test your smarts and reflexes, and dreamlike combat arenas dole out hints about the characters’ backstories as you fight for extra currency.
Bastion supports gamepads, but my own cranky controller wouldn’t cooperate. I had much better luck with a keyboard and mouse, although a laptop trackpad worked fine in a pinch.
Supergiant’s posts on the App Store suggest the designers are still ironing out a few bugs. I didn’t encounter any of the graphical glitches they warned about, but the controls did go haywire on me at a few odd spots in the game. Switching control schemes until I got past the trouble areas seemed to work. Beyond that, the game ran smoothly even on my aging hardware.
I wish the game let you go back and explore levels after you’ve beaten them. But even that decision reflects Bastion’s overall theme: The past is the past, and you can’t get back what you’ve lost.
Macworld’s buying advice
Whether from the Mac App Store or Steam, Bastion offers a haunting, gorgeously crafted experience well worth the purchase price.
[Nathan Alderman is a writer, editor, and downright amazed at what he can destroy with just a hammer in Alexandria, Va.]