Blazing Birds

Do androids dream of electric sheep? They may well do, but I reckon if they’re having a bad dream it will be of badminton. Welcome ladies and gentleman, to the nightmarish world of robot badminton.

Yes, you read that right – robot badminton. What the developers have done is combined the exciting idea of robots with the less-than-exciting idea of badminton. The resulting mess is something which looks, and plays, like a tech demo – like the developers were experimenting with the physics of a shuttlecock and got a little carried away, and then someone said they should release it as a game. One can only assume that the person who said that was then struck mute before he could say “Only joking!”

You control a simple, hardly animated at all, robot which uses something that fleetingly looks like a lightsaber to bash a shuttlecock (or bird… hence the title) to your opponent who will return it to you and so on and so on. Except it’s stupidly hard to even hit the shuttlecock back once – moving and swinging for a shot don’t seem to like each other very much, and the fact that the shot types are mapped to the bumper and trigger buttons is a bizarre choice as well. You can almost hear the A, B, X and Y buttons shouting out “Wooo! We’re down here, we’re much better placed for this kind of malarky you know!”.

During the course of the the match power-up orbs will float around the arena. Should you manage to hit one of these orbs with a bird then you will unlock one of the available powers. These include ricochet, which bounces the bird off the walls at strange angles, firecracker which distracts your opponent with firecrackers and something that fires a giant snakey-dragon at your opponent. It’s all very strange, and as power-ups go, they do nothing at all to enhance the gameplay. They just make it even more annoying, as the AI player will undoubtedly hit the power up while you’re still flailing about trying to hit the damn shuttlecock in the first place.

Graphics-wise, this is the simplest game ever. There’s nothing to it. A thin net, a flat background and identical robots make for a very dull on the eyes experience. You get the impression that the firecracker power-up was included because it let the developers learn a new graphical idea  but it really is dull as ditchwater to looks at as well as play.

There is multiplayer available – that way two of you can fail to hit the shuttlecock, so you each don’t feel as bad. When I played the game there was no-one online, at all, anywhere. I, somehow, don’t expect that to change in the coming days and weeks. Singleplayer offers 60 AI opponents, all looking remarkably similar, and all much, much better than you are. I suspect that almost no-one will have the willpower or stamina to make it to the second AI opponent, let alone the 60th.







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