As promised, here’s the review which completes our little Blendo triptych:
Flotilla is a curious mix of surreal comedy and, dare I say, something verging on the profound, like a majestic thunder storm that rains tartan and shoots lightening directly into Glenn Beck’s face. I say this principally because you embark upon a cheery space adventure, with secret police swans, universal karaoke championships and crocodile starpilots, knowing the sad fact that you have only seven months left to live.
Rockets vs the soft underbelly of a battleship
As a result of your limited lifespan, every play-through of Flotilla is a self contained half-hour adventure, hopping between the planets of a different randomly generated galaxy each time. Along the way you experience various opportunities, space battles and encounters with cute talking animals who occasionally want to kill you with lasers. After a while you die and your adventure is scored and placed in the hall of fame.
Actually, it’s a deadly beam gunship. Not a yellow external hard drive
You’re often presented with events that required a decision to be made affecting your (short) future. In one game, an officer’s pet yetis were chewing through my spaceship’s wiring so I defanged and declawed the little blighters. after this I was told they were looking at me resentfully, ‘but it was probably nothing’. It wasn’t nothing. Later on they escaped and maliciously devoured many of the ship’s supplies; I then had to decide whether the young or the old aboard my fleet should get what was left. It would have been interesting to see what happened next but I tragically succumbed to my space disease. In the next game I breezily flushed the baby yetis into space through the nearest air lock. These little stories sometimes become the main incident of an adventure, sometimes they’re just narrative side-dishes; the brevity of each game means you’re not lumbered with any consequences for too long so you’re free to go nuts; kill the baby yetis, why the hell not?
It’s about bloody time
This freedom extends to the combat system and ship customization. I am, typically, an unadventurous gamer when it comes to things like tactics and builds and stuff; I find the most potent weapons I can, plug them in and combine them with the safest, time-tested strategies. In Flotilla your ships are there for instant gratification not the long haul so, balance be damned, I stuck multiple engine power-ups together and daft combinations of armour and weapons on unsuitable craft and had all the more fun for it.
Rockets bounce off the stronger front armour
When battle is joined you leave the galaxy map and enter a 3D space grid on which you must manoeuvre your ships in a simultaneous turn-based scrap with your opponent. The principle is to face your strongest front and top armour at your enemies’ weapons while trying to attack their weaker rear and lower sides. To do this, for each ship you must first select the speed of movement, which inversely effects the firepower, then the planar and vertical movement, and finally the orientation and target. The system’s a little fiddly but when you learn to manipulate the camera effectively it becomes easier. With your moves chosen, the turn commences and the combat is enacted with ships spiralling around each other while rockets stream toward and either bounce off or explode upon their targets. All this is set to tranquil piano music which makes the carnage eerily balletic, especially when using the replay feature to watch the ships dance around each other uninterrupted by turn breaks. The AI’s usually able to offer a challenge and a nice feature, if the battle isn’t going your way, is the ability to self destruct and end the game in a blaze of explosions and ship fragments: ‘yaaaaargh, you’ll never take me alive you deer space-bastards’, etc.
The aforementioned deer space-bastards
There are several ship types to find and fight against in adventure mode. I’ve played about 25 adventures and I’m yet to possess the mighty battleship but I have found a few beam laser ships, to add to the destroyers you begin with, which fire mighty lightsabers of death but only at very close range. There is, however, the option to set up a six ship fleet of your choice and fight with up to 18 other ships in skirmish mode.
A feature I was sadly unable to test for this review is the split screen coop mode which is played with a friend by plugging in an XBox360 controller. This allows them to accompany you on adventures or take part in a skirmish battle.
You can manually orientate your ship for precise positioning
The only criticisms I have of Flotilla, considering its tiny $10 price tag, are the occasional over-repetition of some events and the fact that the adventures could really be a little bit longer. I’ve encountered references to things I’m yet to experience and there are often events which I’d love to see come to some kind of conclusion before I get killed off. The ship veterancy system is a little redundant for this reason as well.
That said, Flotilla is an exceptional short-form game with a slick interface, a simple yet tactically involved combat system, a great sense of fun and a beautiful shade of melancholia. It has the style and simple fundamentals that make it a game to attract beginners and engross the veterans alike and for $10 I would recommend it to anyone.