An airport for aliens currently run by dogs (all of you, there’s no way I’m getting through these impressions by spelling that name long, so I’ll call it Dog Airport or short for AAFACRBD) is a play on what exactly it says about the box: You are a person at an airport that welcomes foreigners and whose staff is made up entirely of dogs.
AAFACRBD, now available on PC and Xbox, reminds me of a time in the early years when anime titles started to get very weird and specific like I want to eat your pancreas. And while I Want To Eat Your Pancreas is about a girl who actually wants to eat her good friend’s pancreas, the somewhat obnoxious but precise title hides a movie with a much deeper and more beautiful message than mere cannibalism. Likewise, the absolutely delicious but terribly heavy name of Dog Airport hides a game so original, deep and personal that it sometimes made me cry.
In Dog Airport, you play as one of the last two humans in the galaxy, waking up in a cage next to your fiancée Krista in an airport terminal on Phobos, a Mars moon. Krista explains that you were both placed there by Cage Dog, the cage-loving dog after a night out gone awry, and that she has to leave, but you can meet her on another planet. Your job, and the central vanity of Dog Airport, is to meet Krista at airports across the galaxy to help out various good puppies, doggos, and woofers along the way.
I challenge you to walk through AAFACRBD without a smile. (I instantly became a smiling idiot seeing all the dogs you meet are represented by archival 2D photos.) There are so many hilarious little interactions you can have with the dog dwellers at these airports that don’t serve no more than eliciting a chuckle. When you take photos in a photo booth or fall off the map, the sound effects come from humans, one of which is the game director. Xalavier Nelson Jr. informs me, is his own mother.
It’s David Bonie. There is a sign behind him that says, “Don’t trust David Bonie.” Trust David Bonie, he gives you illegal bones.Screenshot: Strange Scaffold / Kotaku
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I like dogs. I can’t see a dog, photo or real, without instinctively smiling. Everywhere you turn, there is a cute little face to squish, and each of them can be stroked. In the game, some dogs provide essential information or perform an essential function. Think of Ticket Dogs, which give you the boarding passes you need for your journeys through the stars. But at an alien airport currently run by dogs, boarding planes isn’t as straightforward as you might expect.
In addition to providing the right boarding pass at the right gate at the right time (like in a real airport), you will need to complete various tasks for other dogs before you are allowed to travel to your destination. Some dogs require you to bring them an item like a passport (quite reasonable when jumping between planets). Other dogs will need something more esoteric. Often times Dog Airport offers you several ways to achieve a goal. For example, the dog in love asks you to sprinkle him with a liquid so that he can come out of his melancholy in love before letting you get on the plane. Depending on how your game unfolds, you can sprinkle it with the artisanal eau de toilette you picked up at the bar, with the caramel macchiatino quadruple shot ochenta (yes, really) that you bought at the cafe, or with a simple soda picked from a vending machine.
Their requests can become tedious. After a while the dogs’ requests start to repeat and you find yourself on a never-ending path of simple but long recovery quests. Bribe Dogs ask for money, Prepper Dogs ask for umbrellas, and so on until you fill your inventory with all the items you might need, so you’re just a few steps away. clicks to satisfy most requirements.
Before that familiarity set in, I had a lot of fun with Dog Airport figuring out the different ways to satisfy a dog’s particular quest (or a cat, because this game also features those sinister hellish rhythms). There’s a bored dog (don’t worry, we’ve all been there) who won’t let you get on your plane unless you’ve kicked him out. From my various distant journeys across the galaxy, I already knew that there is an energy drink that you can get from a vending machine that would be used to cure the dog of boredom. However, I didn’t have the drink on hand and didn’t feel like cultivating the vending machines until a grave. But I had a tennis ball, and I reasonably assumed that since real dogs love tennis balls, this fake would love them too. I threw the ball at the dog and sure enough a green check mark appeared above the dog’s head, completing my quest.
The other star of Dog Airport is the airport itself. Every airport you visit is built in weird ways that are both very similar and different from real airports. The gates to access your various destinations are, like a real airport, scattered over very large areas and arranged in configurations that defy all logic. Gate A1 will be next to gate C1 and nowhere near gate A2, for no rhyme or reason, just as there is no explanation why Chicago’s O’Hare is jumping out. From hall H to hall J; it’s just.
The weird airport layouts and locations encourage exploration and creative platforming, and reward you with special quests, items, and Dog-PCs to talk to. On Elf Planet, the airport consists of a very large tree. If you fall, you might notice a hidden branch sticking out of the trunk and a special house tucked away there. On Uranus (a planet whose name the Ticket Dog is quite humorous), if you look into the black hole in the center of the airport, you might notice a special elevator that requires landing right on a platform in wild rotation to access it. I’m not going to spoil who you meet or what you get, but the interactions you have are worth it.
Time plays a role in how you experience AAFACRBD. You can’t board a plane until 90 minutes before take-off, so you’ll often have to wait. Fortunately, you can minimize waits by using booths covered with clocks at each airport that automatically advance the time. Once, when I had three hours of gaming to kill before my flight, I pulled out of the game to check something out. A few hours later, I realized that I had left the game open. I had an ‘oh shit’ moment, fearing that I had missed my flight and my boarding pass was now useless (and on fire since the expired boarding passes caught fire). I quickly jumped back into the game to see that my boarding pass was not in ashes and that I still had an hour of waiting. Confused, I asked Nelson how time flies in the game.
“The game is indeed playing in real time,” Nelson said via email. “One of the first objectives of the project was to reproduce not so much the reality as the rhythms of an airport. […] So if someone wanted to, instead of using the series of devices and time-ahead strategies that we put into the game, they could play the entirety of An Airport for Aliens Current Run. by Dogs in real time, relax and wait six hours for their next flight, to truly inhabit another world.
A secret cat lair hidden in an alien airport currently run by dogs. Screenshot: Strange Scaffold / Kotaku
I like the game to play in real time. To me, airports embody the idea of ”hurry up and wait”. There’s such a rush to get to the airport and go through security hoping the TSA doesn’t throw away your expensive shea butter conditioner (or shoot your hair), and then after all this rushing, you are suddenly forced to sit for hours at a time. Playing Dog Airport in real time recreates the same ebb and flow. I’m playing right now as I write this knowing that I still have at least an hour until my next flight. I also know I’m going to get down to writing and realize at the last minute, “Oh shit, Bribe Dog needs a tasty sausage!” forcing me to run as fast as possible to the meat store in the other terminal, then back to the gate before the plane took off.
When not talking to Willy Dogka, skateboarding with a bodacious board obtained from Chad Shakespeare, or helping Construction Dog build a path to investigate behind a waterfall which can be either marinara sauce , or blood, you are sincerely discussing with your fiancé. Krista. She is a scientist who studies interdimensional travel whose work often requires her to be away from you for long periods of time. Navigating your long-distance relationship with her is the emotional heart of the game.
Whenever the two of you meet, you have well-written, beautifully human conversations where you make quirky jokes, comfort each other, and say goodbye with a slogan that would later destroy me emotionally. Best of all, your relationship with Krista is a rare example of black video game love, as both you and Krista are black. It’s deliciously refreshing in a gaming ecosystem that’s often white by default, that at Dog Airport, even though you’re genderless, nameless, and invisible, you’re black – a deliberate choice no doubt influenced by the fact that Nelson himself is black.
With the way apocalypse movies generally play out? No Krista, I didn’t. Screenshot: Strange Scaffold / Kotaku
Although I have rolled the credits, I hope there is New Game +, as I have yet to meet all the dogs and have yet to complete the extremely rare achievement of Deity of Petting which requires you to to pet 704 dogs in one session. An Airport For Aliens Current Run By Dogs is the kind of game that makes you feel good about video games. It is as strange and wonderful a labor of love as its name is long.
Article source https://kotaku.com/oh-hey-i-just-got-back-from-an-airport-for-aliens-cur-1846995763