Everyone likes to have fun, but one of the golden rules is that any fun to be had is better enjoyed with others. This rule definitely applies to games, but especially to a highly interactive medium such as video games. With that in mind, so called “party games” have been big business for a long time. Often dominated by a certain plumber and his gang, but there has been more and more choices every year thanks to the indie community. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter, Beyond Fun Studio is trying their hand at this idea and has let us try out this pre-release version of the game.
The genre of “party games” is deceptive in its simplicity. The idea being that anyone can just join in at any time, and they don’t have to ruin the mood by taking forever to learn the controls just to immediately die to someone being better than them. It’s actually a tall order, but one that is accomplished by drastically simplifying controls and keeping the tutorial to a minimum and letting people play as soon as possible. These issues have been addressed quite well in Aeolis Tournament as you are almost immediately thrown into games and settings with little to no teaching. This is because there is only one true mechanic in the entire game, which is to use your cannon to suck and blow objects or players. You can vary your attack by how long you hold the button, and while this is simple it also means that every game you play uses it slightly differently. Sometimes it means trying to blow away all your enemies off cliffs, sometimes it means shooting cannon balls at them from the other side of the field.
Simplistic controls aside, the character selection is pretty limited at this point, this is something that can be added later easily. One great aspect of these choices is that it’s not just cosmetic, that they each have their own strengths and weaknesses on an easy to understand star rating chart at the selection screen so you can customize to your play style. Each board is different, and while they all technically use the same control scheme, they are different enough on how to use that one button to accomplish various different challenges. There are other great choices that lead to a simple and fast party game, like not having any random events like dice rolls give one player an advantage, and not having to work around a play board that can make the game feel too long or drawn out.
Aeolis Tournament is exactly what you would expect from indie developers in the best ways. It’s much leaner than the AAA games your expecting, and it cuts out all the bloat by making things easy to understand, getting you right to the action, and not wasting time with long tutorials or complex gameplay. That said, it’s also not super polished, and could do with a lot more content, especially on the level design side, and with more characters to choose from, especially if they are wanting 8 players to interact at one time. I love that they are trying to make party games more efficient, but I still think they have a lot more to go to play with the likes of AAA gaming.
The full release is planned for June 2020. A Nintendo Switch version has also been announced.
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