Review: Crashed Lander – Physics-Based Flight Sim

Review: Crashed Lander – Physics-Based Flight Sim

Platforms: Steam, Windows PC

Game Name: Crashed Lander

Publisher: Brain Blinks

Developer: Don Whitaker

Genre: Flying Simulator, Physics Based

Release Date: June 17, 2014

Crashed Lander – What We Think

Thanks to games like QWOP, Surgeon Simulator and Octodad: Dadliest Catch, my prior experiences with physics-based games would be best described as wacky and overly challenging. Games of this type often offer a difficult experience due their exaggerated physics or quirky controls. When I heard that Crashed Lander was physics-based and involved carefully flying and safely touching down on landing pads, I was a little skeptical on how well it would work.

Crashed Lander screenshot - Fog

In Crashed Lander, you control a crudely constructed landing device as you explore odd, otherworldly locales. There is no narrative or set-up besides a tutorial on how to control the flying device. When you start the game, it looks much like several other mobile games, with levels numbered 1 through 25, each with three star rankings. There are two different game modes the game has to offer: Pad Hopper and Ring Runner.

Pad Hopper’s objective involves landing on all four landing pads scattered throughout the game’s sizable levels. You must first land on three pads to unlock the ability to land on the final pad. Finding these platforms is done by exploring the levels without the help of a map, but the game helps you out by pointing to the nearest landing pad with a green arrow conveniently placed on top of the lander.

Ring Runner – the other game mode – involves flying through rings as fast as possible. It’s far less compelling because it doesn’t incorporate the great gameplay mechanics needed for Pad Hopper.

Rings Untrue

Controlling the lander takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do, you find that there is a surprising amount of precision to maneuvering the lander. Tapping the thrust to manipulate speed is responsive and an easy concept to grasp. Controls are simplistic and don’t make the game artificially difficult.

Crashed Lander screenshot - Rings

The physics in the game are purposefully floaty and loosely mimic real world physics. For example, you can effortlessly push a large boulder with your lander, but it’ll roll down a hill like you’d expect a circular object would. The ship’s momentum must be managed, and all the while gravity is pulling it down to the planet below.

Tanks For The Memories

Adding to the challenge, your lander has four gas tanks that are basically the legs you land on. These tanks require that you don’t land on them too hard or else you’ll explode and have to restart the level. The same goes for colliding too quickly with anything in the area. It adds the right amount of difficulty without being too frustrating and makes for many close calls. Furthermore, there is a out-of-three star rank score after completing a level which is determined by how fast you complete it.

The control scheme combined with the physics make the moment to moment gameplay surprisingly fun. A lot of physics-based games will have their physics be too loose or flat out deliberately broken, which leads a whole lot of frustration, as you are fighting against the physics engine intself. With its responsive handling, Crashed Lander gracefully sidesteps this issue.

Don't topple those pins!
Don’t topple those pins!

There are 24 levels in the Pad Hopper mode, and they are all entertaining. The game adds a lot of variation, with levels that feel unique and different from one another; I can’t recall any two levels that played the same. There is a level that has three pads on a circular boulder which I had to push around and land on as it slowly rolled around.

One level required that I land gently on pins that had pads on them. These pins would topple over if not careful, and knocking down pads in another stage made them unapproachable. This diversity is easily the game’s strongest aspect. I was never once was bored by the game during the time I spent with it.

I must make mention of the game’s soundtrack, because it’s interesting, to say the least. It has a variety of different sounds to it. Some tracks feel like ambient Spanish trip-hop, while others feel like standard electronic music. It definitely stood out and helped create a chill but quirky vibe. I appreciate when a game can set a tone with its music, especially when its other aspects don’t do as much of a good job creating atmosphere.

Crashed Blander

Crashed Lander plays great, but it doesn’t look great. There is nothing especially unique about the art style. Everything about the game looks bland. The textures of the objects and terrain are stretched out. When you get up and close to them, which happens often, it’s easy to see that these textures were not meant to be viewed from up close. To be frank, it feels lazy.

Crashed Lander screenshot - Space

My biggest gripe with the game is that it feels soulless. The environment feels visually uninspired. It’s as if all the objects and textures were taken directly from a resource library mixed and mashed together to make levels. The main colors found in environments are very muted and mostly brown, grey or black.

Sticks the Landing

Crashed Lander is still a good game, thanks to its cleverly crafted stages. It’s fun and challenging without being overly frustrating. Its lack of personality leaves it feeling a little empty, but I would still recommend this game to anyone who might enjoy an amusing planetary landing experience.

Crashed Lander – Official Website

Get Crashed Lander on Steam

Watch the launch trailer for Crashed Lander below: