Review: Keebles

Coming all the way from a land down under is Keebles, the first game from Burnt Fuse Studios. We left it in the hands of Ben and his kids to see how a family of Poms got on with this Australian export.

Title overview   |   Initial impressions   |   Plot   |   Gameplay   |
Visuals and audio   |   Replay and innovation   |
Screenshots and videos   |   Final thoughts   |   Review round-up

Title overview

Name: Keebles
Developer: Burnt Fuse Studios
Publisher: Green Man Loaded
Release date: March 2015
PEGI rating: 3
Platforms: Mac, PC
More information: Official website

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Initial impressions

Burnt Fuse Studios is an independent games and app developer based in Melbourne, Australia. The company teamed up with publisher Green Man Loaded to release its first title: Keebles, a physics-based vehicle-building puzzle game. We had the opportunity to chat to Tracey McGarrigan, Head of PR & Communications, at Rezzed 2015 this month so take a look at our interview if you haven’t already seen the video.

The thing I like most about Keebles is that it’s a game that knows exactly what it is. The design is fun, cheery and vibrant, grabbing your attention from the get-go and welcoming the player into the world. Once there, the challenge is on: build a vehicle, let it go and hope it can get from A to B in a single run.

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Of course it’s not really A to B: it’s about turning the Bobble (a very important Keeble saving device) into a vehicle capable of not only rescuing each of the three Keebles stranded on each level but delivering them to the Whale at the End of The World. And you have to do it across thirty levels.

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Having had a preview of the level and with supplies usually limited, it’s up to the player to build whatever comes to mind.

At the start of each level you’re given a preview of the terrain to traverse and location of the stranded Keebles, then it’s off to the workshop to design your vehicle. The Bobble has four nodes to which you can attach an assortment of wheels, beams, rockets, puffers, parachutes and more. Having had a preview of the level and with supplies usually limited, it’s up to the player to build whatever comes to mind.

Once built, a simple hit of the ‘Go’ button and you can see how the creation fares. Success or failure is dependent entirely on the physics of the design, with the strength of the structure absolutely crucial. That’s not all as timing the deployment of extras such as puffs of air or parachute deployment key to nailing each level.

If you can collect all three Keebles, beat the clock and only use a set number of pieces then a five star reward is yours. Fail on any count and you lose a star. This isn’t a bad thing as Keebles uses the practice so perfected by mobile games in that you can retry each level, tweak your design and have another crack at those five stars.

This is the title’s greatest success: it’s easy to understand but a challenge to master

This is the title’s greatest success: it’s easy to understand but a challenge to master and in the world Burnt Fuse Studios have created, it makes for an addictive combination. It’s a good thing too because make no mistake, Keebles is a tough game. The opening few levels ease you into the concept but after that the difficulty ramps up (pun intended!) considerably and it can be very frustrating at times. For me it’s a hill that’s too steep and I would have preferred a gentler difficulty incline. It’s not that I’ve a problem with difficult games but seeing that this one pitches itself as something to play in short bursts, there will be certain bursts where no progress is made and that can take away the incentive to return.

It certainly did for my kids, who lost interest when their creations failed time and time again. What would be great would be a free-build mode or maybe just a single ramp to try and build the fastest vehicle, or one that can jump the farthest. Throw in a few online leaderboards and you’ve turned the addictiveness all the way up to eleven. I have to appreciate though that this is the effort of a two person team; a game can’t be all things to all people and what Keebles does, it does very well.

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Visuals and audio

The game is entirely set on a 2D plane and it’s bursting with colour, with the environment becoming more and more desolate as you approach the Whale at the End of the World. It’s simple but effective. The music is just as well designed, with a simple theme that never gets too dull or intrusive while you’re beavering away at your designs.

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Replay and innovation

What Keebles does is refine a tried and tested formula – admittedly one that’s seen more exposure on mobile than PC – adds is own look and feel then polish off with some cunning level design.

There’s a lot of game here for under £7.

There’s certainly a good amount of reasons to replay as the difficulty curve makes achieving five stars feel like a real accomplishment. Once you’ve got them all though there’s not much left, which is why a free-build or challenge mode would be a welcome addition. That said however there’s a lot of game here for under £7. This feels like the right price to me, especially as it would have been very easy for the team to go down the free to play route.

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Screenshots and videos

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Final thoughts

As with all our reviews, we have to ask the question of whether or not we’d include the game in question in a 1001 lists. Right now the answer for Keebles has to be a ‘yes’ because it offers something that’s a little bit different and a change of pace to much of what else is out there. It’s fun, distinctive and a challenge; most importantly it does what it sets out to do and it does it well. It’s safe to say this is a cracking first effort from the guys at Burnt Fuse Studios and I’ll be looking forward to what they turn their hand to next.

Is it worth a look? Absolutely. Just don’t be fooled by the cute.

Keebles hides a rock solid core under a cheery and welcoming exterior. It won’t be a smooth ride but the game does reward patience an each time those five stars appear on screen you know you’ve earned them. It’s a nice change of pace from raiding, deathmatching or racing and definitely something that will test your brain rather than your reaction speed. Is it worth a look? Absolutely. Just don’t be fooled by the cute.

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Review round-up

Reviewed: PC
Source: We received a review key from Green Man Loaded
Positive: Provides a challenge: easy to pick up, difficult to master
Negative: Very steep difficulty curve
Score: 41 out of 60
Grade: Worth a look
Keebles, video game, review, graph, Worth a look

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