Platform:Â Mac, PC (reviewed)
Developer:Â Burnt Fuse
Publisher:Â Green Man Loaded
Release date:Â Out now!
Family Focus:Â Suitable for all ages – hooray!
This week Iâ€™ve spent many a night tossing and turning, my mind replaying the same nightmare over and over and over again:
That last Keeble…
That last tiny, helpless, hairy Keeble…
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t save him…
I just left the poor guy behind…
The dream always starts the same: Fade up on a vibrantly coloured level full of rolling hills and deep valleys. In the background, oddly shaped trees sway lazily from side to side as bushes rustle gentle around them. As the camera slowly pans across the screen, my attentionâ€™s drawn to three little fuzzy balls of fur that each bounce energetically from their various perches. One sits in a tree, another by a small red bush, the last on top of a big grey rock. Theyâ€™re cute, and they all have one thing in common:
Theyâ€™re all screaming for help.
Switching into hero mode and saying something awesome (because thatâ€™s what heroes do, right?), I hastily go about creating a vehicle that can safely traverse the levelsâ€™ numerous pitfalls and rescue these loveable fluff-balls.
Except my design is flawed. I start rolling toward them gradually gaining momentum, scoop up the first one from down by the bush, snag the one from on top of the rock, before my vehicleâ€™s launched from a ramp toward the final guy in the tree…but I miss him. My vehicleâ€™s too fast. Or too small. Or too tall. Iâ€™m not sure of the specifics but Iâ€™m catapulted past him and forced to watch as he disappears into the distance – still hopping, still screaming for help – as myself and his two friends reach the end of the level. Theyâ€™re safe, but the fact that Iâ€™ve left one behind tugs at my heartstrings and toys with my emotions.
And thatâ€™s the beauty of Keebles. Beneath itâ€™s cutesy exterior (and it is cutesy) beats the heart of a game that will make you care deeply about these little dust balls and challenge your problem solving abilities to the maximum.
You play the role of the saviour of the species, out to help these newly discovered fuzzy blobs of colour – known as Keebles – get to the food they crave so much to survive, mushrooms, and ultimately hand them over to The Whale At The End Of The World so they can go home. The problem is these little guys are helpless and scattered in various places throughout the land – the land being a series of increasingly difficult levels of varying terrain that youâ€™re going to have to traverse if you really want to help them. Oh.
Never fear though, to attempt such a feat youâ€™re able to create a vehicle in the workshop that should get you to where you want to be, collecting all the Keebles in your â€˜bobbleâ€™ as you happily trundle past, a smug look of satisfaction on your face. Well, thatâ€™s the idea anyway, but as I found out, itâ€™s not quite as easy as it sounds. In the workshop you have a series of components made available to you that begin at a basic level (regular wheels and brackets, etc.) and go all the way up to a more advanced level (parachutes, speed rolling wheels, air pumps, etc.) the further you progress. Utilising all of these components, you build your vehicle. The items are simple, straightforward and fun to play around with – itâ€™s using them together as one thatâ€™s the hard part. In my time on Keebles I must have built hundreds of â€˜carsâ€™ that either havenâ€™t worked (one just collapsed immediately because I forgot to put a specific bracket in, gah!) or have worked a little too well (rocketing to the end of the level in record time…but forgetting to pick up any Keebles on the way. Doh!).
On one level I had to design a â€˜carâ€™ that could successfully roll down a steep hill and launch itself off a ramp at the bottom before plummeting down to two awaiting Keebles below (one in a tree, one on the floor), then trundle down a second hill, leap across a huge gap between ledges, collect the final Keeble (who was balanced precariously right on the edge of the opposite ledge, making a successful rescue even harder) before rolling triumphantly to the mushroom patch at the end – and this was only the 3rd or 4th level! A parachute component had been introduced to my workshop and I knew itâ€™d feature heavily in my rescue attempt; utilised mid-air, it provides a slow, gentle descent to the floor below, rather than hurtling head first into the ground and inevitably destroying your vehicle – although a controlled descent can be problematic in itself. My first few attempts were awful and I used the parachute to terrible effect, opening it too early, too late, or, on occasion, not at all. Finally though, after an embarrassing amount of attempts, I got it just right and caught the two Keebles Iâ€™d kept missing, only to run into more trouble when I got to the next ledge: I couldnâ€™t get the third Keeble.
This is the main draw of the game and what keeps you coming back for more. Itâ€™s not enough to merely create an awesome vehicle and complete the level in record-breaking time, you also need to – nay, want to – collect all the stranded Keebles while you do so. At the end of the level your performance is rated in Stars based on how many of the little fellaâ€™s you saved, how fast you did it in, and how many components you used to create your Keeble-rescuing vehicle (less is more, in this case). I found that a really nice small touch to the game was the fact that if you missed one of these â€˜Starsâ€™, the sound of smashing glass would echo out from within the game rather than a nice â€˜dingâ€™ as the Stars were counted up, which made me ever-more determined to do the level over and over and over again until I got 5 pleasant sounding dings.
What I really enjoyed about Keebles was the fact that the game has taken a relatively simple idea and turned it on itâ€™s head. Itâ€™s cutesy graphics and cheerful tunes perhaps give the impression of a game aimed at a younger audience, when actually after playing it for a little while you quickly realise that the design-a-vehicle element coupled with the tricky level layouts and physics-based gameplay make it a lot more challenging, and in doing so open it up to a much wider audience, and I loved it. Although I may have had nightmares about that last Keeble I left behind, you can rest assured that I wonâ€™t be quitting until Iâ€™ve saved every last one of them!
Whale of a time:
- Looks lovely
- Addictive, challenging physics-based puzzles
- Fun to build your own vehicles!
- Not as many levels as I would have liked
- Not for the impatient gamers
Keebles is out now and available via Steam!