by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Hitting the skies
One of my favourite games to play when I was growing up was the Cinemaware classic Wings. It had you flying around in a rickety box with wings, taking on the Germans in World War One air battles. Baron: Fur is Gonna Fly (hereafter referred to as Baron) takes place in a similar time period with similarly unstable flying machines and gives off a similarly nostalgic air. Baron is much less serious, though, and has gamers competing against each other in order to be known as the ace pilot.
The action in Baron all takes place on one screen and brings a certain amount of nostalgia with it. Planes can wrap around from one side of the screen to the other as they shoot their way to aerial victory. The game has three game modes. The first – Battle – is best suited to playing with a group of friends huddled around a single screen (preferably linked to a TV, or reasonably large monitor). Up to eight players – either locally or AI bots - can play at any one time. Battle mode can be played as a team-based game or an everyone against each other in a massive free-for-all.
After selecting the victory conditions, which can include shooting down the most planes, or being the last man (or in the case of Baron, animal) flying as well as selecting the round lengths – any where from 30 seconds to five minutes, Baron lets you choose from one of eight animal based characters. Apart from their aesthetics, they’re each identical in play style. They do have their own voiced catchphrases and theme song though, and when in the air, it is quite humorous to hear their comments when they shoot someone down or get shot down themselves.
There are options in the game that do separate one player from another though. Firstly, there are several planes that you can choose from. There is a fast plane that has a wide turning circle, a slow plane that can perform sharp turns, a light plane that can climb quicker, or a more evenly balanced plane with more accuracy. Each has their advantages, and you will eventually find one that suits your play style.
Another variation that is a heap of fun to play with are the special weapons. Depending on which game parameters are set, the special weapons may come into play from round two, but each is enjoyable to test out. Players can choose some crazy weapons such as Blackholes, Bug Zappers (essentially a line of electricity that will zap anything that hits it), Anvils that drop from the bottom of your plane, Flamethrowers and Freeze Rays.
With up to eight players, rounds can get somewhat frantic, particularly on the smaller map (there are three sizes) with special weapons being activated all over the screen. But in the end, a winner will emerge, complete with their victory catchphrase. A quick run-down on everyone’s performance lets players know how they did, and, if you are playing multiple rounds, the players will get a chance to upgrade their plane for the next round and select a different special weapon (or keep the ones they were using). The upgrades and special weapons allow each game to be different from the last.
If you’re not into shooting at your friends, the Story mode (known as Sheep) is a bit of fun. Sheep mode is a one or two player co-op game that has the teams taking on increasingly more difficult waves of sheep pilots. Just be careful, though, as friendly fire can be just as damaging as enemy fire. When playing as a team, the game continues as long as one of the two players completes the wave, with death requiring a restart or continuation from the most recent checkpoint. The checkpoints are ideally placed, giving just enough of a challenge for two players (or at least one of the two) to get through unscathed. Unfortunately, Baron doesn’t save your progress, so if you decide you want to head back to Battle mode, all your progress is lost and you will need to start from scratch the next time you want to play.
Controlling your crate with wings
The developers at Dogmelon have made the control scheme extremely simple. With controller access only (no keyboard controls), players gain speed by pressing the A button, and then take off and steer with the d-pad or thumbstick. Once in the air, the A-button acts as the gunner, whilst the B-button activates the special weapon. Planes can also barrel-roll and dodge enemy fire with the use of the bumpers. There isn’t too much to learn, but helpful reminders appear at the beginning of each match. Speed is gained when flying in a downward trajectory, and some cool loop-de-loops can be executed.
Baron has some cute cartoon style visuals, that when combined with some of the crazy special weapons and the funny one-liners of the characters, make the game reminiscent of the cartoon ‘Catch the Pigeon’ starring Muttley and Dick Dastardly (also of Wacky Races fame). There are a range of backgrounds, each with their own nuances. Some levels have clouds that players can get lost in, whilst another is played at night-time with searchlights brightening the sky.
Baron: Fur is Gonna Fly has a nostalgic feel to it, with the old-school single screen gameplay, newspaper style game commentary and the period inspired music. And it is a heap of fun with a few friends, or with family. Indeed, I played with two of my daughters and it was a game where we weren’t arguing with each other afterwards. The cute visuals, funny catchphrases and comical special weapons give the game an entertaining atmosphere. The planes when playing with eight players on the large map can feel a bit small, especially when playing around a smaller screen, but there are the three map sizes to allow for this. The controls are simple, so that even youngsters in the family can play unaided, and the Training mode gives a chance to practise those piloting skills. The only real issue I have with the gameplay in Baron is the lack of a save function on Sheep mode. But you’ll likely be spending most of your time dog-fighting your friends in the Battle Mode anyway.
Fun, family friendly gameplay. Simple controls.
No ability to save progress on the Story mode