The ducks in the demo for Nitrome's upcoming puzzle platformer Flightless might be ground-bound, but armed with magical ladders to aid in their explorations of deep, dark tombs and a yen for gems, they're ready to set out on their adventure anyway. You can play with one or two people on the same keyboard, and by yourself, the controls are [arrow] or [WASD] to move and climb, and [spacebar] to activate your ladder. See, since you can't fly, or even jump, you need to use your ladder to get around. It shoots straight up when you deploy it, and can be used to get over obstacles, collect gems, or even smash enemies... which is handy since enemies will only hurt you unless you land on them when you come in contact. Take a hit and you'll be teleported back to the entrance of the room and have to collect any gems you got while in it all over again. You can even shoot your ladder down by pressing the down [arrow] or [S] while you hit [spacebar]. There are 50 gems to find hidden throughout the tomb, and some locks won't open to let you proceed deeper unless you have a certain amount of shiny rocks on you already. Now come on, little duck... let's... get... dangerous.
The browser version is ultimately just a demo for a larger project up for voting on Steam's Greenlight service, Flightless as it stands is a pretty solid and entertaining chunk of action. It looks fantastic, which is sort of par for the course wherever Nitrome is concerned, and does an excellent job of showing you what you can expect in the full game while still providing a substantial little experience in its own right. Each room you'll explore is its own self-contained little puzzle, and figuring out how to manipulate your enemies and your ladder to get through unscathed is both satisfying an entertaining, requiring a certain amount both of brains and reflexes. On the downside, the map lacks enough information about the rooms you've been in to be really useful. Also, speaking purely as an interested consumer, you might find that it doesn't set up the story Nitrome plans on delivering according to the Greenlight description, which in turn doesn't tell you how much more content you can expect in the full game, or even how much it might cost you. Still, Flightless is a great example of a demo done right... full of clever concepts and puzzles, and more than enough to whet your appetite for the full game while still feeling like it provides a great, plucky adventure on its own. Only one question remains... of the two little ducks, which one has the feather on his back?