An ambitious Japanese indie that attempts a few new things within the 2D platformer/crafting genre, but falls short thanks to a number of design oversights.
Miracle Positive Co
|Physical English||Yes – AS only|
World-building & Story
In Airship Q, you play as a girl who dreams of exploring the skies above with her brother until the pair are turned into cats by an evil witch. With her brother captured, it’s up to the girl to escape from her prison in the clouds and commandeer an airship to free her sibling.
After the initial plot info dump, that’s pretty much it for story in Airship Q. You’ll be given a new set of objectives as you slowly progress through the levels, but overall there’s a very low level of engagement – merely a plot framing device to give you a reason to exist in this world, but little more to engage you in what’s happening.
To be fair, the world itself is fairly interesting – a group of intertwined islands in the sky with ancient statues that teach new crafting skills, dark castles with treasures hidden deep within and a sea of open space to explore. Certainly, it’s the high point of the game, encouraging you to explore every nook and cranny to find the secrets inside.
Presentation & Sound
Opting for a now-standard 2D pixel graphic look, Airship Q has moments that make it stand out, but these are few and far between.
I do have to admit that I enjoyed the main character being a cat – it was something a bit different and it was quite cute the way she leapt around, although in general animations feel stiff and lifeless while playing. It feels like characters and enemies alike didn’t really interact with the world (rather, bounce off it) and things like sheep and other NPC’s move in erratic ways, influenced by how you’ve shaped the landscape but can be fairly unpredictable with wonky physics. To be fair, there can be a lot going on at times with explosions knocking away large parts of the world, but this causes the framerate to tank and isn’t impressive.
The game looks better when you’re gliding through the open skies in your airship and little things like waterfalls from a higher land will fall past you or a gust of wind will fly past. The islands themselves tend to be quite dark and foreboding – obviously this fits quite well with the idea that you’re supposed to dig down and make sure you light the way as you go and generally they’re competent enough, if a little uninspired.
Sadly sound isn’t great – music is incredibly repetitive and voice acting is infrequent and hammy.
Gameplay & Content
While undoubtedly a crafting game like Minecraft and Terraria, Airship Q is much more of a linear adventure than those two titles – which may work for some but thanks to its clunky mechanics, definitely didn’t for me.
The opening prison escape acts as a basic tutorial for how to play – your character moves and jumps as you’d expect in a 2D platformer, but has the added ability of being able to smash objects in the environments and collect them as blocks, placing them in other areas (such as making a staircase) to allow her to get around. As you’d expect, you can’t smash everything with just your fists and you’ll need to craft a series of gradually stronger weapons to achieve this.
Crafting is simple enough, but hidden behind a series of counter-intuitive menus which seem ridiculously hard to navigate on Vita. By collecting materials on your adventures, you can craft various combinations of them into new weapons, equipment and items which can help you progress – things like ladders provide a convenient way to ascend when all the walls have been destroyed, while a pick-axe will help you break gems and create new items with them.
Unfortunately, just as with crafting, even simple tasks like digging and building turn out to be chores thanks to the way the controls work. See, you can only do those two things in the direction you’re facing and there are only two possible elevations – level and crouching, which makes it insanely difficult at times to place where you want. Something like Terraria nailed this much between with an octagonal placement system to allow you to build up, down, left and right – it’s sorely needed here.
While there isn’t base-building as you’d expect from similar titles (something I really loved that again feels like an oversight here), you can customise your ship which is your means of getting around. It’s fiddly but certainly possible to make the craft of your dreams – although actually moving it is (predictably) terrible, handled with the right analogue stick it’s fiddly and you’ll often get stuck on the environment, meaning you have to reset right back to where you started.
Your main objective in Airship Q is to save your brother and you go about this in a variety of ways – first you find statues that bestow new crafting items (usually needed to progress on the next island), before fighting a number of dragons and finding a number of sigils. It’s much more of a linear adventure than its contemporaries which does make it feel refreshing and may work for some gamers – but sadly, I’m definitely not one of them.
See, despite being more linear and focused, you’re still often left to your own devices with the vaguest of objectives – you might need to find a key to open a door, with the only clue being that it’s somewhere on the island you landed on so you have to dig the whole damn place up to find it. There’s a real lack of explanations beyond the opening half hour and you’ll probably spend at least a quarter of your time accidentally falling to your death and having to start digging again from the top, which is never much fun.
If you are in the market for a new 2D crafting platformer on Vita and have completely exhausted Terraria, then Airship Q can at least provide at least a dozen hours of gameplay if it hooks you. For me, I lost interest after the first couple and can’t see myself ever returning in the future.
Airship Q attempts to offer a slightly new take on a familiar formula, but between the vacant story, performance issues and frustrating design choices in the gameplay, it doesn’t leave a very impressive final product. I understand this was a low-key effort from a small Japanese independent developer but even still, it’s not really worth trying out unless you’re desperate to see what Japanese Terraria with cats that lacks polish looks like.