Flight of the Hummingbird: Look, up in the sky, near that weird glowing wall!

Next up: Flight of the Hummingbird, a z-code game by Michael Martin!

I have this bizarre sense of deja-moniker.  Like, I feel like I have seen Michael Martin’s name around a whole bunch, but to the best of my knowledge I have never played one of his games.  Maybe I have seen him commenting on other people’s work?  Oh wait, yeah, I’ve read his reviews for last year’s comp!  And if I am not mistaken, he also authored the Retractable Quips and Quip-based Conversation extensions for I7, which I am quite fond of.  Well, there’s one mystery solved.

There are now only two mysteries left in the world.  One is what the hell happened to my pants (long story which still has no conclusion).  The other is what this game is going to be about.  I suspect it will NOT be about a magic Swan-Bird changing a Tsar’s son into an insect so that he can secretly visit his father, because that is the plot of Flight of the Bumblebee.  So out of the million-zillion things this game could be, I have narrowed it down by one.

Let’s drive the reviewer’s steamroller over this game and see what squirts out, shall we?

Dr. Sinister is at it again! The Concordance of Powered Response isn’t entirely clear on what it is he’s planning, but it’s big and it’s based in his island fortress. This is clearly a task for one of the world’s mightiest champions!
Wooo!  I’m one of the world’s mightiest champions!

Unfortunately, they’ve had to send you instead; the world’s mightiest champions have other emergencies to deal with. New Year’s Eve is always rough.
Well balls.

All I’ve done is examine self and check my inventory, and I’m already in love with this game.  Seriously, look at this:

Your Hummingbird Suit lets you, when suitably charged up, flap your arms fast enough to actually maintain flight. You’ve got to have a lot of energy available to do that, of course, but you can still manage it.
You’re particularly proud of the fact that unlike most of your heroic comrades-in-arms, you have a proper excuse for your ridiculously overdeveloped pectoral muscles.
Genius!  And the fact that you have a utility-belt hold-all called the HummingBelt??  Double-genius!

> x energy drink
This drink is an incredibly powerful concoction of sugar and electrolytes. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that it is the source of all your power.
Sense of identification with protagonist rising.  Wait… this game isn’t some overly elaborate Red Bull commercial, is it?

Let me reiterate:  You are a second-string superhero, whose power is fed by energy drinks, and you activate said power by flapping your arms.  This is so great.

Annnd…. I’m dead already.  Dang genetically modified sharks.  Let’s try this again.

Think I’ve got the hang of this.  Man, if any superhero ever needed a beer hat, it’s this one.  And we’ve made it to the Tower of Dr. Sinister!

Finally. Man, that was a pain. One of these days you’re going to have to get one of those hats with the drink holders and the long straws.

Trying to open the tower hatch by falling on it from a great height?  Don’t know what the fuck I was thinking there.  Time to go wander around and look at crap.  Found a truck… found a closed door… half an hour later, found a crowbar in wreckage back over the ocean.  Yeesh, game.

Hmm.  There’s ladders in here, but who needs ladders when you are THE HUMMINGBIRD!  I will simply chug my redbull and fly, because I am THE HUMMINGBIRD! Note to Self: I need to talk like that more often, particularly in public when hanging out with easily-embarrassed friends.

I keep wanting to make jokes here, but the game keeps making them for me.  This is a good sign.

Who the hell keeps their truck keys in a 200-foot-deep pit??  I mean, seriously, the innocuous crate I can understand, but… ooo, I’ll bet the innocuous crate is full of something dangerous!  Like… lasers!  Can a crate be full of lasers?  Or delicious Sees-brand scotchmallow candies!  That’s definitely something I’d keep at the bottom of a 200-foot deep, perfectly smooth pit.  Teach those bastards to try and steal my scotchmallows…

> break crate
You unleash your devastating fighting techniques, swiftly reducing the crate to a pile of splintered wood.
Looks like it was empty after all.
Noooooo!  My hypothetical scotchmallows!

Crap, now I have to dock a villain’s spare rocket with a space station.  Logistically speaking, that’s a bit like having sex in the front seat of a Dodge Neon, right? All tricky maneuvering and retrorockets firing? I’ve done that, I can do this.

> south
You thrust laterally to your orbit.
Definitely like having sex in a Dodge Neon.

Okay, actually, this puzzle is really cool.  Don’t know that I’ve seen this exact iteration of a latitude/longitude puzzle in a game before.

> u
You can’t reach the ceiling from here, and the ladder is well out of reach.
Oh no, whatever shall I do??

[As you are on a spinning spacecraft, normal compass directions no longer apply. UP, DOWN, IN, and OUT all still work as expected, and the new directions SPINWARD and ANTISPINWARD are available. While on the station, these may be abbreviated SW and ASW.]
I find myself longing for comfortable confusion of Rogue-of-the-Multiverse’s LEFT and RIGHT.

Disrupting the neatness is a crate in the corner labeled “COUNTERMEASURES”.
Just for the record, game, scotchmallows are potentially a countermeasure.  To my ravenous hunger.  For scotchmallows.

Okay, I have done a handspring off the thing and stopped the doctor.  Sweet!  And then I even came back and got another ending and did some AMUSING stuff (xyzzy chain?  Fantastic!  Will not spoil it here, though).  We be done.

Part Two: The Rundown

Much in the same way that I am a sucker for ninjas, dinosaurs, Maui, Pacian games, etc… I am also a big fan of third-string superheroes.  But then, who isn’t?  I mean, just speaking from a mythopoetic standpoint, what represents the pinnacle of the common man better than a shitty superhero?  It’s like divinity meeting us halfway, without being an overbearing ass about it.  I digress.  Point is, shitty superheroes are awesome.

The Hummingbird here is pretty cool for a shitty superhero, particularly because he allows us to do something we almost never get to do in interactive fiction: FLY.  I suspect I know why this power doesn’t make an appearance in IF very often (much less in a starring role); it seems like it would be hard to do properly, due to adding a pervasive z-axis and probably requiring a whole bunch of empty spaces (how do you clue the player where to go properly, etc.).  So I admit I let out an involuntary squee noise when I saw it here, and it was well-done, particularly when humorously subverting villain’s lair tropes.

Speaking of humor, the writing’s great: I laughed out loud in a couple of places, and like I said earlier… I’d cut’n’paste a piece of text from the game, and start to write a joke for it… and then look down, and the game itself had already made THAT SAME JOKE in the text.  That happened like six times, it was friggin awesome.

To digress on that tangent for a minute, I’m reminded that one of the many things humor is good for (besides catharsis, physical benefits, social bonding, etc.) is reminding us that other people see the universe somewhat the way we do.  If you laugh at something, and I laugh at something, chances are good that we do not in fact inhabit different universes.  This clears up a good deal of subconscious existential issues and whatnot, I wager.  So Michael Martin, pat yourself on the back; you’re a funny man, and at least one person shares the same universe as you.  Probably.

I also found the pacing to be good, which seems to be a hallmark of comp games this year.  I also thought the size of the areas were just right; the “getting truck past lasers” puzzle is the kind of thing I find annoying on larger maps, but here it was fine.  The puzzles were overall good; they were (with one annoying exception) about right for a humor game, where you need challenges but you want to see the content most of all.  And the spacial thinking involved in the flight puzzles is definitely a nice break from “where do I put this doohicky?” IF standard.

I had a couple of minor quibbles.  The crowbar being so easily miss-able was one.

The other was, it seemed like the space lair needed a Something.  I’m not sure what that Something was.  The dynamic get-past-the-goons puzzle was really neat (seriously, the dynamicness was awesome), the end conversation was some good menu, but still… it needed a Thing.

Lemme try to be more specific here… The level of tension throughout the game was relatively low, since you were generally not being directly menaced by anything.  Overall, this was fine and good, but the lack of a tension-producing finale meant that you got the most sense of danger out of the middle game (the space docking) and the beginning (flying over the ocean).  That was a tiny bit lop-sided.  I suspected when going through the supply crate that maybe the author had something neat planned for those?  This is just my opinion anyway, I’m sure other people might’ve found the thug puzzle (again, good puzzle) more tension-producing than I did.

Anyway, the game was really good.  This is definitely in my favorites out of this year’s batch of games, and given the overall quality, that’s saying something.  I would definitely play another game set in this universe.


2 Responses to “Flight of the Hummingbird: Look, up in the sky, near that weird glowing wall!”

  1. […] Flight of the Hummingbird by Michael Martin […]

  2. How did you wind up getting past the goons? It sounds like it wasn’t the way I got past the goons.

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