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Game Info:

The Incredible Baron
Developed By: FlatRedBall
Published By: Black Shell Media
Released: May 27, 2016
Available On: Android, iOS, Windows
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1
Price: $4.99

*Advertising disclosure* Though Black Shell Media was a former advertising partner, this review is not influenced by that relationship.

Thanks to Black Shell Media for the review key!

The life of a trailblazer is in no way cushy. Braving the unknown takes a great deal of courage and endurance. Danger looms at every turn, and there’s no telling when a rabid pack of bipedal hammer-topped buckets will wander over and smash your camp. For those of us with weaker constitutions, The Incredible Baron will shoulder these burdens.

The Incredible Baron follows the exploits of Baron Buffön Hildengard as he sets out on an expedition to prove himself the world’s foremost naturalist. With his scientific advisor Showalter Smartlee and his financier Lady Nora Belin, the Baron sails to an uncharted land to categorize its native population. A slug infestation followed by a robucket malfunction leaves him shipless, and Nora goes missing; he then sets out with Smartlee to find both Nora and scientific discovery.

The Incredible Baron plays out like a real-time strategy game, only limited to a 2D plane. Before most levels, you can choose between a host of creatures and abilities to bring with you, though you’re limited to four per each of the three buildings. Mechanical creations, such as robuckets, bombsnakes, and moai statues are built in your workshop; egg-laying creatures, such as birds and insects, require a hatchery; and mammals are produced from the den. The Baron also has personal abilities you can bring along, such as a pistol shot or a health-restoring bandage, though each one costs one of a building’s four rooms; you’ll have to balance the abilities with the creatures you bring, as each one can use one, two, or rarely all four slots. As you defeat new creatures, you’ll gradually unlock them for personal use, adding to your future arsenal.

The Incredible Baron
Highlights:

Strong Points: Engaging gameplay that’s easy to pick up but remains near-constantly tricky; great presentation
Weak Points: Occasionally grindy; a few minimal quality-of-life issues; rare crashes
Moral Warnings: Violence against robots and animals

On the field, you start with your workshop with only one room built, and you can expand that and build the other two as your resources allow. Gold is your primary resource, buying your room expansions and creatures, and builds over time; the second, energy, fuels the Baron’s abilities and rises slower. Each creature also has one of five elements attached to it, which is strong against two and weak against two; you eventually unlock a color previewer to tell you what colors you’ll be up against and in what numbers before each level. Once created, your troops will steadily march to the right and attack whatever they meet – you have no control over them directly, though abilities can affect their health or movement. Destroying your opponent’s base wins the level; losing yours or running out of time ends in defeat. At the end of the stage, win or lose, you gain a percentage of “research” on a creature based on how many you defeated, as well as leveling up the Baron directly, which increases your passive gold generation.

What this all adds to is a game that’s easy to understand but by no means trivial. Each stage has its own quirks, and your loadout will change accordingly. With the wide variety of animals to choose between, from ones that gain strength the more abilities you have to ones that generate resources while attacking or dying to ones that synergize with others of the same color, you’ll have to carefully consider your options – and perhaps fail the level a few times – to find the optimal strategy. The game also supplies three difficulty levels for each stage, and you will absolutely have to get creative (and/or lucky) to beat the gold-tier challenges. That, combined with a few gimmick stages – getting a single unit to the end, fending off attacks with limited resources, etc. – keeps things quite fresh throughout the game.

The rock-solid presentation only adds to the charm. The pixel art is detailed, colorful, and all-around pleasing; even with a mess of animals on the screen, you’ll always know what’s occurring. The animations are as fluid as pixel art allows, with the Baron and crew’s being particularly enjoyable. The music, staying mostly with tropical and/or nautical themes and appropriately heavy on the steel drum, not only fits each level and the overall mood of the game but is also great in its own right. It’s usually a good sign when a game offers its soundtrack for purchase, and this one is no different. Even the characters help the game’s overall enjoyment: the Baron is a self-centered pompous windbag who’s rather callous to his assistant Smartlee, but still exudes a sort of charismatic sincerity that makes you root for him nevertheless. The final boss even taunts you at the end of the bronze and silver difficulties, giving you even more of a reason to wade through the occasionally-brutal gold difficulty.

The Incredible Baron
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 95%
Violence - 7.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

There are a few technical problems to note, however. While you’ll unlock most creatures through general play, a few require some grinding to get – and you might find yourself grinding anyway to gain animals to help you progress. The in-game encyclopedia, containing both the Baron’s amusing notes on each creature and ability as well as summarizing their effects, also lists the stage they’re most common in; however, this is, on a few occasions, completely incorrect. There’s no way to restart a level from within: you’ll have to either wait to be defeated or quit out to the stage select, with the former being preferable, as you still gain research and experience when you lose. Finally, the game crashed twice, both times after completing a stage, once with a bizarre red screen; luckily, it’s lightweight enough to boot up again quickly, and no data was lost.

The Incredible Baron is quite clean, morally-speaking. You are pitting robots and animals against each other, but the worst that happens is the losers falling over and sinking into the ground. A few abilities are framed as the Baron shooting a creature with his flintlock. The Baron’s treatment of Smartlee might be a cause of some concern, but it’s clear it’s not out of malice or evil, just untamed ambition.

The Incredible Baron may not play like a typical real-time strategy game, but it is no less compelling. While simple in its premise, the gameplay remains engaging and the strategy aspect is solidly intact. With the added bonus of a great presentation on all fronts, this game is a beast that’s more than worthy of study.

-Cadogan

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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