Inside Pulse 12

Review: Landit Bandit (Sony PS3)

Landit Bandit
Developer: The Bearded Ladies Consulting
Publisher: The Bearded Ladies Consulting
Genre: Helicopter Simulator
Release Date: 07/13/2010

A different kind of helicopter simulator than the one I’d reviewed before and for an entirely different system, Landit Bandit is the first offering from this developer and sports some interesting gameplay and level designs but can the rather unconventional helicopter you have to use really live up to everything that they have you put it through, or will it end up as shark food or a smear on a canyon wall? Let’s take a look.

Story/Modes
Let’s start off by saying this game’s story isn’t that exciting. In fact you’re going to be left scratching your head as to why some of this stuff is even happening to you even with subtitles to translate the mumbling of the characters in the cutscenes. It boils down to this. You play as Marley, a laid back islander who’s lot in life is nothing more than hanging out on a deserted island minding his own business until Lander, an irritable art dealer from the ‘city’ shows up. He washes ashore and wants back to the city bad.

Marley takes inspiration from the artwork Lander has with him and build a helicopter based off the DaVinci sketches he has and hilarity ensues. The helicopter they’ve built from materials around the island isn’t exactly up to a lot of abuse and since it’s powered by Marley’s legs, he can get tired and can only move form one island chain to the next before he needs to rest and repair their ride. To get parts and such Lander arranges for jobs for Marley to take on in the various islands, and to top it off each island presents a new set of challenges to overcome.

While this sounds all well and good and even re-reading the general idea it sounds cute but it’s lacking quite a bit. Some of the dialogue told through what amounts to Mumblish, apparently derived from Simlish, is translated with subtitles, but they don’t really help you much at all. You have to help a bar owner in one area by luring patrons in with her feminine wiles and beer, do some ridiculous jumps to help get this guy’s bridges back up, transport around penguins so their boss leader mob boss penguin doesn’t kill the woman traveling with you, etc. It’s a bit hard to follow, but most of the fun of this game is traversing the different areas with the Davinicopter and trying out your new skills.

Story/Modes Rating: Below Average

Graphics
While the character design is a bit off and cartoon-ish, it has a certain style to it that you find all over the game and it is visually entertaining to look at. One thing this game does deliver on are some really great looking levels that really draw you in. Even when you fall into the water and sink a bit because you over-estimated how much land you have available leads to some nice shots, well until the sharks notice you. Each of the islands is very unique in it’s look and function. The level design was definitely not skimped upon here. While it is pretty fleshed out, the people or penguins (don’t want to discriminate) you ferry about don’t do much when they’re getting on or leaving your ride. They just stand there. Most of the time they don’t’ even react to you unless you get the girl along with you to give out a hello and then they come running, or at least wave.

Just a little bit here would have made the world come alive a bit more. In some levels the sharks swimming about help with that but for the most part it ends up being pretty static except for where you’re landing and kicking up a cloud of debris.

Graphics Rating: Enjoyable

Sound
Ok, while I wasn’t expecting a full blown voice cast for this, the Mumblish is at least amusing. And really the dialogue in the subtitles wouldn’t help being read aloud. It might actually make even less sense in some cases. There are some decent sounds for everything but it’s all pretty generic when you break it down. Even the music that accompanies this game isn’t really all that memorable and has that generic island tune to it. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just passable.

Sound Rating: Decent

Control and Gameplay
Controls for this are pretty easy to pick up. The R2 button spins the rotors to get you up in the air. Holding it down keeps the rotor spin constant. L2 gives you an increased boost but sucks down your stamina by a lot. The left analog stick controls how you tip your aircraft to change direction in flight. The right rotates the camera around to make landings and flight a bit easier. As you move through the areas you pick up other abilities that get assigned to other buttons, like calling out to islanders with the bar wench or using a grappling hook to swing the thopter like you were Lara Croft. The controls are pretty responsive and you’ll see an immediate change in what your craft is doing.

That being said, the thopter you’re flying is rather like flying a brick as far as aerodynamics goes. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it’s pretty realistic as far as how this thing would actually fly given its design. The bad part is that it’s a bit too realistic and in the early levels it’s beyond frustrating learning to pilot this thing. It’s very fragile and no amount of parts or upgrades you do to this thing is going to help that. Come in for a landing too hard and it’ll shatter. Hit the side of a cliff with a glancing blow and more than likely it’ll shatter. Take off into the top of a cave at the wrong angle and it’ll shatter. Most of the time you can recover from this pretty quickly but there are times you’re going to have to start the challenge over from the beginning because your crash just cost you precious seconds.

Tilting along with moving the camera does help but only so far. You’re not going to stop on a dime. In fact I’d warn against using the burst unless you’re moving in a straight line and have time to correct your angle otherwise you’re going to overshoot where you’re trying to land every time. As you get used to the controls it becomes easier to play but then they pile another mechanic on top of you that you have to adjust for and have to use because of the way the level is designed so you have to spend more time learning how to use that mid-challenge which can lead to many frustrations and gnashing of the teeth.

The gameplay is broken down into challenges and after they’re done you have the opportunity to explore a bit in some of the areas and really master the challenges. Which is good because while you can’t play online with people, there are leaderboards that you can rank on. There’s also a co-op and challenge option that is splitscreen only which is neat for those who want to try this with friends at home as opposed to online. While the challenges are broken up they are usually variations on a theme. The first challenge is almost always to ferry people around. As you move through you’re on a timer and it gets more challenging each level.

After the initial ferrying of peeps, you’re issued a challenge unique to the island you’re on. Like carrying beer back to the tavern along with people to keep them interested in staying at the bar, or on another island, using the grappling hook to swing from ring to ring through narrow canyons. All on a timer of course. This does get rid of some of the monotony of it but it seems to build on each as you go through and if you’re finding the first island frustrating, well I’m sorry to say you’re going to find the rest just as or even more frustrating. If you can manage to get a grasp on the controls and keep from over-shooting your targets, it’s a pretty fun game but there is a learning curve to the controls that not everyone is going to master.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable

Replayability
While the game does have some replayability to it with the co-op options and the leaderbaords, the rough learning curve on the controls might make people shy away from picking the controller up again. Then again if you really like the challenge or find you have mastered the controls you could always own the leaderboards. Really though beyond that there isn’t much reason to play through again. There are some trophies to unlock here which you may have to play a challenge again here or there if you’re a trophy hound, but really I don’t see many people coming back to this one that often. It has a bit of charm to it but it’s lacking in wanting to pick it up over and over again.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

Balance
While there is a definite balance here, the game does start off with a bit of a learning curve to it. The difficulty does steadily increase though so you can master each area and new skill as you move along through the game before you jump in on the next section. The game itself runs about 4-5 hours to beat it in its entirety, so for it’s price on the PSN it’s isn’t priced too bad for what you’re getting. There’s a decent amount of content, the game looks good, and despite the need to learn how to fly a brick, it’s a nice mix of fun, frustration and skill.

Balance Rating: Very Good

Originality
I can honestly say even though this qualifies as a helicopter sim, I haven’t played a game quite like it. Sure there have been other helicopter sims but this one has a neat theme to it with the man powered helicopter and the fact you’re maneuvering around islands with some rather interesting geography counts as well, but really after you peel it back a bit, it’s a bunch of fetch quests with the thopter with variations on that every time. While they’ve disguised the repetition well it’s still there and can get old even though the game is short. A bit more work on the challenges would have helped this a bit I’d think but I have to give them props for coming up with something far more original their first outing than most companies do.

Originality Rating: Great

Addictiveness
While this game can be frustrating it’s also addicting. I was working out trying to get the thopter to where I could fly it pretty well and land where I wanted. Then I decided to play with the sharks trying to get them beached on land or just trying to avoid being eaten and to see how close I could get it. Once you get past the frustration there is quite a bit of fun to be had here. And it can be very addicting. My wife kept giving me funny looks while I was doing this trying to figure out why I was playing after my initial frustrations. But I just had to master the flying brick!

Addictiveness Rating: Good

Appeal Factor
It’s priced reasonably on the PSN store and the concept looks fun. Pretty much why I jumped on the chance to review it. I think it might be too inaccessible for most casual gamers and definitely not in the right vein for more intense gamers. While there’s something for everyone here I can see a lot of people passing it by which isn’t to say it’s a bad game, but I’m not sure it’s got an audience right now, especially with a game you have to work a bit to get to really be able to play.

Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre

Miscellaneous
While I found the game a little more than frustrating at first and the jokes fell quite flat, there is a certain charm and uniqueness to the game that had me enthralled with it and I wanted to keep playing it. Usually when I get frustrated the game gets shut off for a long while and I don’t play it again, well unless of course I have to. I do that more for the preservation of my controllers and the system and my sanity. Landit Bandit managed to make me want to push past my frustration so I could master the flying brick and really get it to soar. That and I really wanted to see Lander get his due for pushing Marley too hard. I really think this is not a bad first outing and I’d love to see what else this developer comes up with in the future because I’m betting it’s going to be something equally different and fun.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Below Average
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
Sound Rating: Decent
Control and Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
Balance Rating: Very Good
Originality Rating: Great
Addictiveness Rating: Good
Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre
Miscellaneous Rating: Great
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize While a bit rough around the edges with the controls, although that almost seems intentional, Landit Bandit does offer up a bit of a different kind of fun with this simulator. There is a break-in period as you adjust to the controls and each new area offers up another new challenge you have to get around with your make-shift helicopter, but it’s often just after you’ve finally mastered the last one. As a casual game it could be a bit too hard on the default difficulty for players looking for something quick to pick up, but once you get around the awkward learning curve there is some fun to be had. Don’t look for an amazing story here though, this is something you want to play for the gameplay and less for the story as even with the subtitles to translate the mumbling you’re still going to be left scratching your head.

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