Puzzle platformer Flightless has a lot of good things going for it. It has an interesting storyline that makes you want to know more about the world of the game. The visuals make excellent use of pixel style art in order to bring players into an enchanting world. The game mechanics are clever, taking away the typical platforming ability to jump and replacing with an intricate ladder system that opens up all new possibilities. Best of all, the game also showcases a unique, incentivized multiplayer mode that gives players more puzzles to solves and places to explore.
Flightless puts players in control of one of two ducks who have become Flightless. Using a magical ladder, players will be able to reach new locations, deal with hazards and hostiles, and ultimately, find a way to save the ducks from their dire predicament. The game was originally released as a demo to promote it on Steam Greenlight -it has been a while since then and the game has been set to be published under the platform, much to the happiness of many fans.
According to the game's back story, the two ducks are guilty of the crime of stealing. As punishment, their wings have been clipped -which prevents them from flying. Also, they much venture into the danger-filled dungeons in order to find enough treasure to offset what they have stolen. This treasure comes in the form of precious gems. These are scattered throughout the underground, a few are easily within reach, but many can only be acquired by successfully navigating through puzzles and escaping dangerous traps. The vast caves also serve as a home for some dangerous monsters that will try to kill the ducks.
The game is designed in such a way that players are not forced to complete all the puzzles to progress. The game is divided into large clusters of puzzle rooms. A cluster will have several puzzles and several gems to acquire, to move to the next cluster, you will need to get enough gems. More often than not, there are more gems in a cluster than what is needed to progress. This allows players to skip out on collecting gems that are blocked by certain puzzles. While player can naturally choose to become completionists by getting every single gem that comes along, the system still allows less hardy spelunkers to progress. It should also be noted that there are also some hidden puzzle rooms (and gems) as well so players should pay attention to the surroundings.
Each puzzle room in the game will have a gem (or two, or more). And players will need to use their wits and reflexes in order to acquire these gems. Pressing the direction buttons allows for movement (up and down is only possible if the duck is using ladders), and the action key will summon the ladder to magically rise straight up. The ladder will extend until it hits a roof or a barrier and it will stay there for as long as the ladder is not damaged, crushed by moving platforms, or is cancelled by creating a new ladder (a duck can only create one ladder at a time).
If the player characters (the ducks), die for any reason, they are instantly re-spawned at the entrance of the room. If a room has multiple entrances, the spawn point will be the most recent entrance used. This allows players to quickly retry any puzzle that has impeded their progress.
Occasionally, players will encounter rooms that have no obvious solution. In cases like these, it may be better to consider bringing in the help of a second player. Yes, there are certain puzzles in the game that are designed to be solved by more than one player. Since second players can easily pop in and out of a current game, the multiplayer mode is easy and accessible (especially if your co-op buddy can only play for a short amount of time). It goes without saying that a lot of the game's challenges can be made much easier with just one person. Though at the same time, having more than one duck can also be disadvantageous.
As one of Nitrome's first major not-browser-only games, Flightless manages to showcase the game developer's penchant for delivering good gameplay experience that is complemented with wonderful visuals and music. Collecting gems in a dungeon has never felt so clever, and if you think that is all that the game offers, wait until you cross the first major gem count threshold and face your first boss fight (yes, it has boss fights!). It goes without saying that Flightless is an imaginative and exciting game to play. It does not matter if you are a platform-puzzle veteran or are completely new to the genre, this game should definitely be on your to-play list.