Caramel Skies: Venus Patrol

By Alec Meer on January 25th, 2011 at 9:38 pm.

I took at look at indie plane game Venus Patrol during IGF judging, and meant to duly nudge the good ship RPS its way. Alas, I was distracted by the dread onset of Winter, huddling away from the terrors of cold and darkness and entirely forgetting that I had played a beautiful, minimalist flight sim made only of pastel colours and mouse control. Such sunlit tones and airy freedom seemed so long ago.

With the game now reaching release status, creator Neil Thapen (creator of Stalker/Tetris mashup STACKER and one of the chaps on the receiving end of Quinns’ biscuit quest) sent us a timely reminder of its existence.

‘Tis a remarkable hybrid of simplicity and complexity, a challenging and technical plane game hidden behind accessible controls and dreamy visuals. I believe you’ll take to it.

We have a certain preconception of what flight sims are and involve, but Venus Patrol does a remarkable job of simultaneously breaking from tradition and endorsing it. Abstracted both visually and in terms of control norms, it’s nonetheless fat with the unforgiving technical/guy instinct complexity we’d see in any traditional flight sim.

Showing you the dreamlike, honeyed aesthetics is vital, I suspect. So I shall:

Give it a go for no-pennies from here. Let us know how you get on. I was mesmerised by it yet terrible at it, as I am at all flight sims except Crimson Skies. This is something I hope to address in an impending RPS feature…

Oh yes – if you want to tweak the resolution, you’ll need to delve into settings.txt and set it manually. PC gaming!

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33 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    Sure looks beautiful. We need more flight games, be it simulators, adventures or arcade.

  2. TimA says:

    Oh my, this looks a bit wonderful, and just my cup of tea. Thanks!

  3. Chunga says:

    To be honest, I have the attention span of a lazy gnat, but from the looks of the videos, it seems very intriguing. But then again, I am always fascinated by the games that tries to go outside the norm of “what it is supposed to look like” (as the MMO Love vs WoW to take another Impressionist example).

    Will have to download and put on my lazy-gnat, tobacco-tinted raybans.

  4. Dozer says:

    This is amazing. I’ve stopped playing normal computer games (except SpaceChem, dammit, Quinns) so I can get back into flight simulators, which very quickly turned into ‘programming stuff for flight simulators’, and then ‘creating textures for the instruments I’ve created for the flight simulator’. So I hope you’ll understand when I say the reason I’m so impressed by those videos is the characteristic 6-pointed gyroscopic gunsight, exactly right for late-40s British fighters, and the faces of the altimeter and air-speed indicator. They look perfect.

    Now that, for me, computer gaming is ‘flying a plane inside a cloud, navigating by watching a dozen little dials’, what those little dials look like is very important. Which is why I’m impressed by those videos.

    Also, airships!

  5. Kakrafoon says:

    This is more than beautiful. Especially if you turn on post processing.
    The only thing I’m missing is flaps – the rest is perfection in an orange tint.

    I think it was a very good decision to make that sim about first-generation British jet fighters. That way, theres a kind of dieselpunk otherness to the game that appeals to me.

    • SmallGods says:

      Verily, everything is improved with flaps.

      Also, ahhhhh, ain’t it pretty! Loved STACKER (possibly slight understatement, I lost a good month of my life to it, and almost an assessed piece of work), and this is free soooo….*click*

  6. Premium User Badge

    Tinus says:

    That looks amazing. It simulates everything it cares about, but filters aways the other bits and replaces it with beautiful things. Will play right away!

  7. espy says:

    It does look amazing, great atmosphere, and it’s oh so fucking hard :/

  8. CreidS says:

    This really reminds me of Corncob 3D.

    Yes, I am older than you.

    • vorwatsmactis says:

      I used to love Corncob 3D! I played it on our donated 386 when I was like 8 and it was my favorite game for years. I used to jump out of my plane and then remote control suicide bomb it into the alien bases. Do you remember that level where you were supposed to land on the floating airstrip? Was so unfair!

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Corncob 3D is long overdue a remake. Someone with more talent than I who also happens to be reading RPS please get on it. STAT!

    • Evil Timmy says:

      I was just skimming the comments looking for a general consensus on whether this was worth a further look, and… Wow, I had honestly totally forgotten about Corncob 3D, but as soon as I saw the name a rush of images from my childhood came back. It’s a game I actually grew up with, kept around and as I got older and better at games and smart enough to figure out some of the complexities, I’d be able to make it a bit further, take out a few more of the crazy alien(?) ships and less and less frequently see the main menu after having a high-speed meeting with mother earth. So, yes, I’m downloading this now, and yes, I agree Corncob 3D could totally use a modern update/sequel.

  9. The Tupper says:

    Oh the shame…the SHAME that it’s come to this: that a game about aeroplanes has to describe the basic principles of aeronautics to PC gamers.

    What have you youngsters all been DOING with your PCs all this time? Actually, better not say…

    I remember when I were a lad, etc…

  10. somini says:

    I just played this for over an hour and I couldn’t stop. What a beautiful game.

  11. Zenicetus says:

    As a total flight sim geek, I don’t want to take away from anything that can be a gateway drug. This looks interesting, for what it includes and what it leaves out.

    However… just for the record, the game’s web site says “Fly Meteors and Vampires above the sulphur clouds of Venus.” That’s an interesting idea, but if you really want to explore what it’s like to fly in non-Earth environments (and I know that’s not the goal of this game), then buy X-Plane which works on Unix, Mac, or PC’s. It’s the best-supported current mainstream flight sim, now that Microsoft has dropped the MSFS franchise.

    It includes the ability to tweak the environment for gravity and air density, and it includes a basic terrain model for Mars. There is a whole subset of X-Plane designers and pilots who are into learning how to fly in a ridiculously thin atmosphere, plus low gravity. Think… really big wings and really high speeds for landings and take-offs… and really long runways.

    Not to diminish what this indie project is doing, but if you’re interested in aerodynamics on other planets, X-Plane is something to check out. No combat though, which I suppose limits the market. I have a hard enough time just taking off and landing on Mars.

    • TimA says:

      Or try Orbiter, which is free, and also lets you fly between the planets seamlessly.

  12. Plopsworth says:

    *Looks at first screenshot* Gloster Meteor? Ka-CHING! I loved Frederick Forsyth’s short story The Sheperd as a child. Though I think that one featured a Vampire. Anyhow, I’ll have to give this a run once I’m home from work.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I was wondering if in fact I was the only person who had ever read that story. I still have my copy (ahem) borrowed from the school library, and yes, it was the first thing I thought when I saw that Vampire, lovely aircraft :)

  13. Player1 says:

    Oh my, this is like F/A-18 Interceptor for the Amiga, just much more intense and beautiful. For those who like this: you should try YS Flight (http://homepage3.nifty.com/ysflight/ysflight/e.html) if you don’t know it yet. It’s great. Don’t let the horrible looks of the website fool you.

    • Dozer says:

      Except that Meteors and Vampires are much, much better than the soulless F/A-18…

  14. Premium User Badge

    grossvogel says:

    It has aircraft carrier blimps. Why everyone fails to mention this? Don’t make me question my sanity.

    • Hydrogene says:

      I agree, carrier blimps are a must have for any quality flight sim.

      Venus patrol is simply wonderfull, even if the mouse controls are a bit tricky at first. Even in a 640×400 window, it looks much better than a lot of much more hight tech sims.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    There’s something about the simplicity and cleanness of those graphics that make it seem more real than many of the flight sims that have all the graphical bells and whistles and photo mapped terrain etc.

  16. EthZee says:

    Bah! It doesn’t load for me. I get an access violation and it closes before it loads. Shame, it looks really quite something.

    (I’m using an old Dell laptop so I guess I shouldn’t expect much, but still!)

  17. espy says:

    I wish there was a toggle for slightly more arcadey handling. Orientation in a dogfight is hard enough without spiralling into a death dive every two minutes :D

    At least they’re easy to get out of :)

    • JayeRandom says:

      This looks amazing. Pity that it looks like there’s no way to buy a copy of it to watch.

  18. apa says:

    Brilliant! The controls are excellent, but I want to fly with my joystick instead of swinging a mouse, is it possible?

  19. espy says:

    Ok, got the hang of it now! Getting out of turns by rolling while holding the LMB is the key. Much more fun.

  20. LoveIsGood says:

    Looks like the STACKER game is now dead. Out of bandwidth :(