The Kid found a new way to play Bastion, and it only costs $5 (and a current-gen iPad)
It’s very rare to be surprised by a video game port, but my first introduction to the iPad version of Bastion happened when I received an email saying it was available. I’m at PAX, and hotel WiFi is notoriously shitty, so I made it my day’s work to find an Internet connection clean enough that I could download the game and try it for myself.
The controls have been changed, but the beautifully drawn graphics and reactive narration remain from past versions of the game. This is the sort of thing that shows off the power of the iPad 3, and the game’s textures, character models, and colorful backgrounds come to life on the system. There doesn’t seem to be anything cut down, anything tampered with, or any shortcuts taken with the game’s visuals in the sections of the game I’ve played. There is very little on the App Store that can touch the game in terms of visuals.
There is a “classic” mode where you can play with virtual buttons on the iPad’s screen, but it’s not very effective; virtual buttons are usually crap and these are no different. The “real” controls allow you to guide the character by placing your finger on the screen, and he automatically shoots or attacks anything within range. You double-tap to roll out of the way of enemy attacks, and hold a shield button to protect yourself. This changes the feel of the game, as it gives the player the impression of helping a character through the environment instead of controlling them directly, but it works very well.
If you’ve already played the game, there is little here that’s new, although the official blog claims a few weapons have been re-balanced and a few lines of dialog have been added. “We converted the ‘No-Sweat Mode’ added to previous versions into an Infinite Lives toggle setting, for less experienced players who might be enjoying the story but having a tough time with some of the encounters,” the blog post stated. “On the other hand, experienced players can still engage the Shrine system for some very challenging and fast-paced battles. On the whole, though, the content of the game will be similar to what you remember if you’ve played previous versions.”
While the game isn’t simpler and still requires you to pay close attention and react to your environment, the automatic attacks do allow you to lean back from the game a bit and enjoy what’s going on across the screen. The music, visuals, and overall aesthetic of Bastion have always been unique and inviting, and this version of the game allows you to experience them in a new way, with a control scheme that changes how you interact with the game and its characters. I’ve been spending some time this evening on the couch of my hotel room in Seattle with headphones on, enjoying the feeling of getting lost in the game all over again.
It’s also worth noting that, at $5, this is the least expensive way of playing the game, although it only works on the second and third generation iPads. “We also felt the game experience would not translate well to the iPhone’s smaller screen,” the blog post said. While that’s arguable, playing the game on the iPad 3’s retina display makes it feel like you’re holding an interactive painting in your hand. This is a much more intimate experience than even the console and PC versions.
While you give up some direct control of the character, watching The Kid whoop the ass of the enemies while you keep an eye out for projectiles to dodge or block is a fun and often less stressful way to play the game. If you’d rather play the original, it’s still there. If you have the price of a cup of coffee burning a hole in your pocket, a latest generation iPad, and a desire to see what the rest of the world has been talking about since July 2011, you have a fun way to spend your weekend.