If you’ve ever found yourself playing a sports game and thought it might be improved by a touching story and surreal puzzles, I’ve got great news! BasketBelle is a charming, unique, and interesting game that does just that. Essentially a story of a young, dunk-obsessed boy searching for his sister, this short but sweet game offers gameplay that’s entirely its own. With a paper-cutout Paris as its backdrop and a collection of strange, surreal monsters and puzzles, this curious and charming game is truly original and deeply intriguing.
BasketBelle opens with a short narrative bit showing our hero learning the basics of basketball from his father. After a new member of the family, Belle, is introduced, we see our young protagonist practicing his skills with her as she grows. A bizarre happening one day when their beloved orange ball rolls away from the family hoop leads to a mind-bending adventure against tentacle-like monsters, leading our champion on a quest to reunite with his lost sister, overcoming puzzles with his court-earned abilities and attempting to rescue her from the twisting grasp of these unearthly beasts.
BasketBelle, while short, is broken into several chapters, each of which featuring a unique set of rules and challenges to overcome. The first chapter sets up learning how to play and getting the hang of the controls with straightforward basketball action. Later chapters feature everything from block-pushing puzzles to sky-soaring chases, each making use of these same skills and abilities. You’ll run, jump, slide, and shoot your way to the end of each chapter, getting ever closer to finding your lost sister, armed only with her cute yellow backpack and your father’s treasured basketball.
What makes BasketBelle unique is, frankly, nearly everything. With a great, if simple, art style, curious mechanics, and soothing downtempo soundtrack, there’s nothing in the game that seems like anything else I’ve played. While the rules and play within each chapter are consistent, the constant shift from one chapter to the next keeps the play engaging and fresh as you progress. Throwing in a heartfelt story of family and love, this title brings a whole court of imaginative features that stand out as a truly special experience.
With its one-of-a-kind art and play, BasketBelle creates a fantastical, strange, and touching story. While it’s very short, taking under an hour from start to finish, the $4.99 price on Steam and Desura includes the game, soundtrack, digital sketchbook, and a making-of featurette by developer Bean. You’re not likely to get a ton of play, but by keeping the price low and tossing in these extras, you’re certainly not throwing away your money by picking this one up. A definite recommendation for those with an appreciation of games as art, my only disappointment here is that there’s not more of it to explore.