I think I may have just played one of my all-time favorite levels in a platformer. And not because it did anything necessarily spectacular. It was more about the way the gameplay, tone, and a specific song came together (the song isn’t listed in the credits, which is a really odd oversight). I didn’t want the level to end. I just sat there at the exit letting the music play with the wind blowing softly under it. Since when did platformers get so wistful? Actually, I know the answer to that. Trace a sad lovely line from Ico to Flower to Braid. Keep following that line and you’ll come to Bastion, the game I’m currently playing. The level is Prosper Bluff. You’ll know it when you get there.
In a way, Bastion is “just” a platformer with RPG elements. But like Ico and Flower and Braid, it’s more than its genre. Bastion knits familiar gameplay into a neatly playable package, with the design acumen of something like Darksiders or some umteenth Ratchet & Clank; it makes the familiar feel fresh. The graphics are cheerfully colorful and tastefully lively, but there’s a sullen mood underneath it all, expressed mainly through writer Greg Kasavin’s story and actor Logan Cunningham’s gravelly basso narration. It has the economy of a children’s book and the poignancy of poetry. And I wish to heck I knew what song plays at Prosper Bluff, because it’s going to be floating in my head for at least several days. Probably longer.
Bastion is the creation of a teensy indie developer called Supergiant Games, but it’s published by Warner Brother Interactive. It’ll be out next week on Xbox Live, at which point I’ll have quite a bit more to say.