AltGames Weekly: BasketBelle

In 2012 I went a little overboard with all of the indie bundles that were popping up after the success of Humble Bundle and ended up accumulating a vast amount of DRM-free games that I have never installed. After almost three years I am finally playing these games that I have purchased. While most have been passable — and some are outright unplayable — some have been really well done. BasketBelle is definitely on the better end of that spectrum and is quite memorable due to both the mechanics and the narrative.

BasketBelle_011

BasketBelle is about a young man, Luc, who sets out to save his sister, Belle, from amorphous blobs. Strangely, these blobs enjoy playing basketball and Luc must use his skills to overcome these adversaries. What makes the mechanics so interesting is how they never change despite varying objectives. Luc is able to move, slide, jump and shoot the ball and these are the same interactions the player will be using for playing basketball, platforming, or even chasing a flying blob through a thunderstorm. It is pretty remarkable just how adaptable basketball mechanics are, as each genre shift feels natural in this game. I did run into some issues with jumping between platforms but it simply boiled down to adjusting to the gravity of the jump. It has a bit of a floatiness to it that caused me to overshoot jumps occasionally. Though, by the end of the game I had grown accustomed to it.

The story is where this game shines though. Interspersed throughout the game are cutscenes that showcase the relationship Luc has with his father and sister. We see Luc admire his father’s basketball abilities and wanting to grow up to be like him. We see the birth of Belle and how Luc responds to that. There are even tender moments where Luc helps his little sister dunk the basketball despite being too small to accomplish this on her own. This is a loving family, something we don’t see enough of in video games. The cliché of a male character adventuring out to save a female family member is even used to great effect as a red herring. The revelation that Belle wasn’t kidnapped by the blobs, but instead was controlling the blobs under the new name Queen B, was a little underwhelming until the final reveal when we discover that it was all pretend. The two kids were using their imaginations and playing a made up game in the backyard the whole time. These are the kinds of stories that video games are sorely missing and I’m more than ecstatic to see BasketBelle tell this type of tale.

BasketBelle_010

BasketBelle  is a beautiful game. The art style is captivating and effectively uses pastel colors to present both gorgeous landscapes and nightmarish caverns. All of the animations in the game are fluid and present a fantastic sense of motion. The soundtrack is composed of some infectious pop synth that somehow blends into the game experience while still standing out enough to not be forgotten. The basketball almost acts as a bridge between the audio and the visuals too. Luc dribbles the ball in time with the music, sometimes even playing with the drum beat. Each time that the ball hits the floor, a purple splatter effect appears for a second before fading away. This connection between the world, the visuals, and the music is another aspect so rarely seen in games. When done well, such as in this example, it adds so much personality not only to the characters but to the game as well.

BasketBelle is a real gem that has been buried under the surge of indie games on PC. Despite being an IndieCade finalist in 2011, and having been in a couple of indie bundles, I had never heard of it before playing it today. Since its original launch in 2012 it has been submitted and accepted on Steam so hopefully that will garner it a wider audience. BasketBelle stands out in a sea of homogeneity with a unique style, interesting gameplay, and heartwarming story and has put Studio Bean Games on my radar.  

BasketBelle
Created by: Studio Bean Games
Can Be Found at: www.basketbelle.net

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