There's something very Samuel L. Jackson about Bastion's narrator. Each time we hear the bluesy, Wild West voice, we're picturing Pulp Fiction's Jules about to launch into a biblical monologue. This made our eventual meeting with the voice even more unexpected, but we won't spoil the surprise.
The world in Bastion is shattered, in bits. Playing as the Kid, some devastating catastrophe has destroyed the Earth - it's down to you to create a safe haven for your family and build a new order from the remnants of the past. This happens literally as you explore, with gorgeous hand-painted backdrops rising up around you as you move through the colourful environments. Each step forward brings up new segments of the highly detailed levels, and it's a real headrush during escape sequences when everything comes crashing up and down.
The majority of your time will be spent collecting shards from the end of each level to upgrade your home base. These offer the usual trinkets for improving your weapons and skills, but also allow you to store survivors and pets, and take part in Horde-style challenges in a giant cooking pot. Levels are mapped out and you can switch between the story and a variety of weapon-based challenges and puzzles.
It's the narration that takes the starring role, however. Dubbed the 'reactive narration system', it gives voice to not only the inventive storyline as it unfolds, but also to your actions on screen. In turn, this causes the game to feel less scripted and more influenced by the choices you make. While the voice can be instructive, it's not so much a teacher as a passive guide, accompanying you on your travels.
It's there to remind you of the possibilities open to you, but its ever-present commentary can also get on your nerves. For example, falling off platforms - something we found ourselves doing regularly - there comes a point where you don't need what you're doing pointed out to you again. Particularly when you've got your hands full with a large swarm of enemies.
Beneath the visuals and the voice-over, Bastion is actually a fairly standard action RPG, but the abundance of different challenges and puzzles, combined with that beguiling narration, makes it something rather special.
A fresh approach to a tired genre
- Gorgeous hand-painted environment
- Comfortable but varied combat
- Narration with style
- Falling off ledges is annoying
- Leaderboards are very basic