Aeolis Tournament hands-on preview at PAX South 2020

Aeolis Tournament is taking simple mechanic and expanding it into an enjoyable and colorful collection of party games, so we peeked in on the party at PAX South.

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There’s something to be said for leaning into a central idea, doing it well, and then building around it to make a bigger thing on a firm foundation. That seems to be exactly what Beyond Fun Studio is trying to do with Aeolis Tournament, and I came away believing they can continue to build it up all the more after my time with the game and the team at PAX South.

More than a little hot air

It’s a little wild these days to see a game that almost seems to proudly market and present itself as a party game. Sure there’s things like Duck Game and Demons With Shotguns which are great for an enjoyable group romp, but we’re talking about indie titles that go head-on against the more playful natures of games like Mario Party and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. That’s a big part of what caught my eye about the colorful Aeolis Tournament.

The game is a competitive series of solo and team-based party games on various 3D arenas. The core of the action is that each character is armed with an air cannon that can suck in air (and other items in the games), and then fire off whatever they’ve gathered to various effects. This one mechanic is used throughout every game mode Aeolis Tournament offers. For one game, it’s simply a free-for-all king-of-the-hill match in which all critters attempt to airblast each other off a crumbling island. For another game, you’ll be arranged into impromptu teams on a court and a ball from various sports will drop down, from which both teams will try to blow the ball into their opposing team’s goal. Each game takes this central air cannon mechanic and applies it in a slightly or vastly different way.

From my time with the demo, most of Aeolis Tournament is super simple to play. Any player can drop into the roster of 8 at any time and the entire control scheme is centered around directional movement and a single button, held to draw in air and released to fire. It was quite easily approachable, but the myriad of ways in which the party games play out were enjoyably frenetic and invited at least a little bit of on-the-fly strategy if I was going to eke out a win.

There's a bomb dodgeball game in Aeolis Tournament that plays out like a mix of dodgeball and hot potato as you aim to get lit bombs over to your opponent's before they can explode.
There's a bomb dodgeball game in Aeolis Tournament that plays out like a mix of dodgeball and hot potato as you aim to get lit bombs over to your opponent's before they can explode.

According to Beyond Fun Studio Co-founder and Artist Sébastien Gauvin, that element of strategy and complexity around the simplicity is a big part of the team’s goals with Aeolis Tournament.

“We originally put together the first game mode, the Perfect Storm in which you push players off an island, in a game jam,” Gauvin explained. “It wasn’t long before we realized we could take that original mechanic and add things to it like picking up snowballs and launching them in a snowball fight or playing hot potato with lit bombs in a dodgeball game. We added just this slight variance each time to make very different game modes while keeping it accessible with one-button gameplay. And it led to what we have here where there’s actually strategy and skill to discover beyond the simplicity. You can be good at Mario Party games and still lose. Aeolis Tournament is built to reward your effort if you get good at one game variant or another.”

Creating satisfying variety for long-lasting fun

Characters are more than cute in Aeolis Tournament. Each one has different stats like weight, power, and speed that affect their strategy in games.
Characters are more than cute in Aeolis Tournament. Each one has different stats like weight, power, and speed that affect their strategy in games.

When it comes to any party game, a big part of the fun is in the variety it offers and the different ways it can continue to keep players on their toes. In the demo at PAX South, Aeolis Tournament offered several different characters with different stats such as speed, power to their shot, and weight (affecting how much they can be pushed around). It also had four different party games for the demo, but quite a few more game variants are coming as well. Gauvin and the team at Beyond Fun Studio are invested in giving the game the variety it needs to keep players happy.

“We want to have eight characters ready for players at launch,” Gauvin told us. “We want to continue to create cute characters that players will really like, but we also want to continue giving them enough little variances to make them stand out in their gameplay. We also want to continue to create and add little variations to create new game modes and increase the lifespan of the game.”

Indeed, during my time on the demo, I really enjoyed their bomb dodgeball game and I could see the potential for even more game modes. By the time I was done with the modes at PAX South and the way in which they used the air cannons, I was left believing that as long as Beyond Fun could continue to create different angles by which to use that cannon, the game would continue to be a delight among friendly gatherings. A toddler could handle Aeolis Tournament, but people of all ages would probably enjoy what it’s offering.

Planning the tournament run

Even in its original form, Aeolis Tournament has an enjoyable foundation going on, including drop-in, drop-out play for anyone who wants to join mid-series of games.
Even in its original form, Aeolis Tournament has an enjoyable foundation going on, including drop-in, drop-out play for anyone who wants to join mid-series of games.

Aeolis Tournament began a Kickstarter shortly before PAX South, which is aiming for a $15,000 goal by February 13, 2020. The team is hoping to gather funds for both short-term and long-term goals with the game. The short-term goal is to launch Aeolis Tournament on Switch and Steam in May 2020, but down the line, Beyond Fun Studio would like to bring the game to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as continuing with additional characters, game modes, and other content additions to the game to keep the fun going.

If you’d like to check out the latest news and updates on Beyond Fun Studio and Aeolis Tournament, be sure to follow them on Twitter. If you have a love for party, family, or just altogether friendly game, Aeolis is absolutely looking like it's got a charged air cannon shot ready to scratch that itch well.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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