Bravo, Pajama Llama Games, Bravo. While I’ve never been a big fan of city-builder games before. Flotsam really flipped my skepticism on its head by downscaling this to more of a town-builder. After spotting this game for the first time at EGX 2019. I have been keen to get my hands on it and give it a go for myself. Flotsam is already well-known in the Indie gaming scene. It has picked up both the Most Promising Belgian Game at the Belgian Game Awards and Best Unity Game at Gamescom in 2019. And I can see why.
Let me explain what Flotsam is all about. You’re in control of building a town from the remnants of cast-off junk thrown into the sea in a post-apocalyptic world, and you’re responsible for the wellbeing of its inhabitants: the ‘Drifters’. With needs such as health, hunger, thirst and rest, this is more than just a town-builder; your actions could determine whether your Drifters live or die. You’re effectively ‘God’ – and no, that isn’t me stroking your ego (okay, maybe just a little bit). It is up to you to recycle the items from the old world to survive in this new one. Have you got what it takes?
Flotsam is a really easy to get into. The game allows you to either learn by yourself or use the tips in the top left corner of the screen to help you understand and navigate your environment. Everything feels progressive, almost like a domino-effect. Every task has a reason which then impacts the well-being of your Drifters and your ability to survive. Naturally, as a town-builder, the key element is building the relevant objects at the right time. Let me give you an example:
To maintain productivity your Drifters need rest; therefore you need to build beds to accommodate them and let them sleep. You can’t build beds without first collecting wood from the sea, which then needs to dry on a rack before it can be used for crafting or building. Hopefully now you’re – ahem – catching my drift when I talk about things feeling progressive. And yes, before you ask, I am here all week.
Once you have the basics nailed it’s equally important to ensure you’re setting priorities. For example, you ideally don’t want your Drifters to die from thirst, so a priority to set your drifters would be to distil enough water. After that, you may consider it important to have enough food in stock, so sending Drifters out to fish as a lower priority may then come next, and so on. By setting priorities on my Drifters, it enabled me to focus on building and improving my town – such as building a sail to be able to take my town on an adventure and sail throughout the sea to scavenge wreckages, take on sea animals and meet strange characters along the way.
In short, Flotsam is stunning. It is set in cartoon-style and the level of detail in each item is exquisite, combining 2D and 3D beautifully with an abundance of colour everywhere you look. From the little beds on water to the giant whales bobbing in and out of the environment, or even just the steam coming off your water distillery when it’s heated up, everything about this game promotes a lack of seriousness and a ton of fun. I’m a really big fan.
It’s clear that Pajama Llama has done their research because while your Drifters do look fun, the audio is realistic to the task they are performing. Whilst there is very little audio to speak of in terms of dialogue, this is balanced by the high-quality sound effects of your Drifters working, fishing and building. If you click on a Drifter, you will hear them greet you with a casual “Hello!” which I find really charming, and the music in-game is perfectly adapted to that element of creating a really fun experience for the player.
Flotsam is one of those games where you don’t realise just how much time you’re spending on it. I mean that in a good way. My first playthrough lasted three hours, and I didn’t even care. I was having a great time.
There are huge environments to explore and plenty of garbage to be collected. There is help to upgrade your town wherever you look and there are plenty of obstacles thrown your way. You can quite easily spend hours at a time on this and still feel excited to pick it up and play it again.
All in all, I have to say that I have been really pleasantly surprised by Flotsam.
I can only say good things about this game. Having not been a fan of city-builders before, incorporating a survival aspect into it so that I am also responsible for the wellbeing of my little Drifters made it a much more personal experience. And as a result, I became hooked to it. The game is stunning to look at, keeps the mood light throughout. It allows the player to go into as much depth as they like when it comes to building their own little floating empire. I intend on spending many more hours on this one.
For that reason, I’ll be giving Flotsam the Thumb Culture Gold Award!