Airburst Extreme, by Freeverse
Posted: 9-Dec-2006

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Freeverse Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Michael Murray Class: GAMES

Overview
Freeverse Airbust Extreme is an interesting mix of arcade action and story game play. The game play is apparently designed for anyone in the family from young children to adults. There are options when you begin to play to choose "Story Mode" or "Levels". There is also a tutorial mode to get oriented. The game is in outer space with several characters battling over planets. Your character floats around in a protective layer of balloons while you bounce a spiny ball back and forth, with a "bat", to get your opponents to eventually get hit and fall where the winner is the last one standing (err, floating).

From the Vendor
"Airburst Extreme is the follow-up to our award winning game Airburst and has been re-written from the ground up to include an interactive Story Game, introducing the 10 different characters, each with their own Extreme powers, 32 different game types, most of which are also playable over a network. Watch out too for the new power ups, spectacular OpenGL rendered graphics and great soundtrack from Abdoujaparov, Freekstar and Jaffa Mountain!"

Requirements

  • G3 400 or above
  • 256 Mb RAM
  • 50 Mb of hard drive space
  • Mac OS X 10.1.5


Test Machine

  • Intel Core Duo 1.83 GHz
  • 1.5 Gb RAM
  • 250 Gb hard drive (with about 190 available)
  • Mac OS X 10.4.7


Setup
The game was simple to install as most programs on the Mac are. I opened the "Airburst Extreme CD" image and I was given the familiar Freeverse logo of a monkey and a girl; with an instruction "To install drag the folder to your hard drive, watcha!" Yes, they did add the word "watcha!" I simply dragged the icon over to my Applications folder and it was installed. After the installation, it was easy to find the blue sphere named "Airburst Extreme Folder" that contained the Airburst Extreme application.

When I loaded the game, I was running 10.4.6 with QuickTime 7.1. When I first started playing a game, the game would freeze and I would have to do a Force Quit to get out. The
Airburst website did have an announcement about incompatibilities with QuickTime 7.1. I tried updating to Airburst Extreme 1.0.1 by downloading the update form their website. Installing the update seemed more effort than it should have been, but after the update, everything ran smoothly.

In Use
After starting up Airburst, you are presented with a menu with the options to play against the computer, play on a network, set optins, or quit.


Airburst main menu

When trying a new game, the first thing I do is check the settings ("Options" in Airburst). I noticed that the sound effects and music defaults to only 25% volume, so I immediately increased these. Also, the video defaulted to 800x600. I have an iMac 17", so this was undesirable. Thankfully, this was easy to change to a high-resolution wide screen setting. As with many games, you can also set the level of difficulty before you begin. You may also choose between keyboard and mouse controls.


Airburst Main Menu

Originally, I chose story mode and tried the mouse control option. The storyline mode is not in any real depth because it is
really an action game. However, you will have a conversation with a character before each level that explains why you are there and what you are about to battle for. Then you are off into battle.


Story mode dialog

Airburst is all 3D and very colorful, and does a good job of submersing you into the environment in which you are playing. The graphics are good, but nothing spectacular, which is probably why it runs on such a wide range of Macs. I immediately enjoyed the music, which had a dance/techno beat to it. On the iMac internal speaker it was nice, but when I put my Koss headphones on, it sounded awesome.

For me, the mouse control option proved difficult to keep control of the bat. I ended up spinning around in circles a lot. I quickly lost battles because of this. I am sure I could tweak my mouse settings to try and correct this, but I chose to go with keyboard controls instead. With keyboard controls, I was much better, but I still lost. I had to revert to "kid mode" to get better practice and time to figure out the different power ups.

It should be noted that the game includes tutorials to help you get started. I should have used the tutorial, but I tend to jump into games head first. After reviewing the tutorial, I realized that it would have definitely helped me get up-to-speed. I highly recommend new users go through the tutorial first.

The game seems to be what you get if you mix the Pong and Breakout games in a 3D battle environment. There are familiar things like multiple balls, stick bats, large bat, repair, and so on. Just before you get several balls flying around, you will hear "Extreeeme!" It was a nice novelty at first, but after several bouts in extreme mode, the yell started to get on my nerves a little (other player reactions may vary). However, it is fun to hear the little pops going off as the balloons are hit by the spiny balls, and it has the fun addictive qualities of Pong and Breakout. After playing a few rounds, I found I could move around the area by using left and right arrows. The up and down arrows were for rotating the bat.

At one point, I experienced a reverse in the controls. It occurred somewhere in the middle of the screen, or battle zone, and although it was only in a small area, it definitely threw me off. It only happened once, and I'm not at all sure why. My son (who is eight years old) played this game through several levels without control issues. He followed the story line mode and we found that the further he got, more characters were unlocked for use. Also, we discovered special battle modes; like one that resembled a soccer kickoff.

There is a tedious aspect to story mode. When I lost a battle, I have to start over completely, which meant that I had to go through the whole dialogue again. The levels mode seemed to be a way to skip the dialogue. When restarting, you are given the option to travel to another planet, but I was only allowed to start over on the same planet that I was previously on. This was a little misleading to me.

With regards to game difficulty, I found that Airburst takes some practice to get used to. Also, the fact that you only get one chance in a battle raises the challenge. I assume this is because you can take quite a few hits with all the balloons. I am usually pretty quick to pick up on games, but yet I had trouble just getting past the first level. On the other hand, my son caught on pretty quick and advanced through the levels quite fast.

The game's theme music adds to the excitement of the play. There are several power-ups that you can get to provide an advantage over your opponents, but you have to be careful because some items take away your balloons, or you may hit an "extreme!" power up and spiny balls will be bouncing everywhere. There is even a challenge mode in the battle where you have to quickly take them out, or you will soon be struck down. All these features make the game exciting and fun, and highly addictive.


Addictive Action

This game also features a neat ability to change the colors and/or patterns of each character's floating craft. It is actually a "balloon editor". I found this to be fun to play with. You can also make your own skins. It also looks like there are future plans to provide new skins as well as skin instructions at the Airburst website.


Airburst Balloon Editor


Summary
Airburst Extreme is an action packed game with several configurable options. The game is "kid friendly" and my eight year old son really enjoyed it. As an adult, it took a little longer to get the hang of the controls and levels. If you are on an Intel Mac, be sure to get the latest patches. There are addictive aspects to the game, similar to the old Breakout game, but all rendered in a beautiful 3D environment with really good stereo music. Airburst Extreme is a fun family game and I highly recommended it.

Pros

  • Exciting and fun
  • Easy to install with several configurable options
  • Nice stereo music
  • Widescreen high-resolution game play
  • Addictive arcade-style action
  • Balloon editor

Cons

  • Gameplay can be difficult to master
  • Graphics are moderate
  • Incompatible with QuickTime 7.1 without patch
  • Repetitive dialogue can be frustrating

Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice