Build a vehicle, save the Keebles, go for the fastest time
Keebles is a physics game by Australian Indie developer, Burnt Fuse. The game was featured in the Indie area at last year’s PAX Australia, and was later greenlit on Steam. The premise of the game is for the player to construct an appropriate vehicle to house the Bobble, which is the Keebles’ transport. You must then have your vehicle carry the Bobble through each level, collecting the Keebles and making your way to the Whale at the End of the World so the Keebles can continue their quest to find more mushrooms. You can also take on a speed challenge, and zip through the levels, aiming for the fastest time. Sounds easy, right? Nope! The game has a simple concept, but in practice it is deviously tricky and will test your brain in many ways.
Each level begins with a preview of the stage topography and location of the Keebles you need to collect. You can click and drag the level around and zoom in if you want a closer look at what obstacles you are facing. You then enter Workshop mode to begin making your vehicle. Use your creativity to build a vehicle with all the requirements needed to clear the level (such as high enough struts, strong enough chassis, the right kind of wheels, and other gadgets). The process of building is very straightforward and involves selecting items from a toolbar and attaching them to nodes on your Bobble. Items will flash red if they aren’t attached correctly, or if they overlap or otherwise hinder other items in ways that aren’t allowed.
Hitting Go in the Workshop returns you to the game level and you set your vehicle moving. Hopefully you’ll have built your vehicle adequately and will collect all the Keebles and make good time. If not, restart the level and have another attempt, or go back to the workshop and adjust your vehicle accordingly. The game offers you three hints in order to help you build and propel your vehicle in such a way as to successfully complete the level. After that, you’re on your own. I warn you now, those three hints may not be enough for you if your brain is not up to the challenge (mine wasn’t!)
When (if!) you finish the level, you receive a score based on the number of Keebles collected, the time taken, and the number of resources used building your vehicle. You get a gold star for each Keeble collected, one for finishing within the time limit, and another for completing the stage within the resource limit. That’s right; you are actively encouraged NOT to use all vehicle parts, in order to receive a bonus. Just because your workshop has a bunch of things in it, doesn’t mean they have to be used to win the level. In fact, you can keep track of whether your resources used falls within the star limit: the resource number will be green if it is, so that’s a handy tip! The game has 30 levels in total, and as you can probably guess, they get progressively trickier. You can also attempt to obtain a speed challenge badge for each level but that’s usually at the expense of missing some Keebles, so it’s up to you how you want to play.
The first stage is pretty straight forward, and a basic vehicle will net you two Keebles that are along the path. You’ll probably get the time and resources awards too. However, if you want to get all three gold stars for Keeble collecting, you’ll need to re-engineer your vehicle so the Bobble is riding high on the struts in order to collect a Keeble above ground level.
Each level introduces a new item, such as different types of wheels, parachutes, rockets, puffers, and balloons. You must determine the correct placement of each item and at times work out when to deploy them in the level to speed or slow your vehicle, stop from crashing, scale verticle cliffs, or add extra propulsion. The fourth level requires you to attach a parachute, deploy it at just the right time so you don’t smash into the ground, and then cut it to remove drag so you have enough speed to make a final jump. These actions must also be expertly timed in order to collect the Keebles at the right moment. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for working that out in just a couple of tries, but that satisfaction didn’t last.
Keebles has lovely bright coloured graphics, cute critters and perky music, and my first impression was that it reminded me strongly of LocoRoco but with DIY vehicles. However, don’t let that cute style deceive you – Keebles is a tricky game that requires lateral thinking and inventiveness and I admit I got stuck pretty quickly: at level 5 to be exact. Burnt Fuse did anticipate this – they know their game is challenging – and they provided reviewers with a handy guide to each level, as well as links to videos of perfect runs. You can also find videos on their Facebook page showing the developers and YouTubers challenging each other to speed runs and five-star completion. I was feeling confident that would help my poor, tired brain, but no. After watching the videos and reading the hints, and trying and trying and trying, I just have to admit defeat. I can’t get past that level. At least not without smashing my computer in a rage. So in summary, Keebles is a great little game that will test your limits and patience, but if you are old and world-weary like me, it might just get the best of you. *sob*
Keebles is out on PC and Mac on Friday 27 March, and the developers have a special offer for anyone who buys Keebles from Green Man Gaming before 16:00 UTC on Monday 30 March. You will also get four free games: Click, PID,Rabbit Hole 3D, and Rooms: The Main Building.
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