Review: An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs
Updated: Jun 3
Reviewed on: PC
Publisher: Strange Scaffold
Developer: Strange Scaffold
There aren't enough comedy games. Oh sure, classic point and click games are funny, and the cringeworthy references to internet memes stuffed in every Borderlands game are funny for the first week before they're immediately dated, but pure comedy games are a rare breed.
That's why An Airport For Aliens Currently Run By Dogs, a strange breed itself, is such a welcome breath of fresh air in a gaming space increasingly dominated by grand adventures, complex systems and photorealistic graphics. You don't need those, says ... let's call it Airport Dog Game for short. What you actually need, it says excitedly, is JPEGs of Dogs with bizarre personalities helping you navigate a vaporware airport at the end of the universe.
Why yes, Airport Dog Game, that's exactly what I needed, how did you know?
But let's back up. What are we doing here. Airport Dog Game casts you as one of the last two humans left alive. You, and your long-distance girlfriend Krista, are stuck in a series of airport lounges, duty frees and gates on alien planets. These desolate technicolour wastes come complete with inexplicable geometry, vast floating geometric megastructures and, occasionally, some indication that it's technically an airport. Completely uninhabited by the aliens that built it, the airports are now populated only by dogs, who just want to help you get where you're going.
These dogs, excellent as they are, are represented 2D floating stock photos of some of the cutest dogs you'll ever see. Alongside the Pedogstrians, you'll meet excitable and helpful vendors, airport staff and VIP (Very important puppies) who are usually thrilled to see you. The game's simple controls make sure to give you a dedicated pet button, so you can show your appreciation for these dogs being here, your only canine comfort as your girlfriend disappears to another airport and you must seek her out.
Are these dogs normal? Well, ask bodacious skate-shop owner Chad Shakespeare, or Gorby the souvenir dog who really, really wants you to take this gun off his hands. It's absurdist, it's silly and it never stops surprising with a steady influx of new weird characters to meet. My personal favourite is Rodney, The Cursed Dog, who has been temporarily made human and has plenty of office supplies to give you.
The gameplay here consists of you trying to find your way back to your partner as she leaves for ever stranger airports. You do this by collecting items to buy your way onto planes in an increasingly ridiculous line of, appropriately enough, fetch quests. It's a game whose tone leans surreal and keeps you laughing, but at its core keeps reminding you that you are otherwise alone, with only one person who can understand you that remains frustratingly distant. Airport Dog Game never loses track of why we're here, to laugh at the funny dog friends, but it does know how to keep you grounded in something that matters.
Frustratingly, Airport Dog Game is not quite as slick as it could be. That's understandable though. The game was made by developer Strange Scaffold, which seems to consist of mainly (only?) Xalavier Nelson Jr., who also wrote for the equally wonderfully weird Hypnospace Outlaw. For a small team, what is here is remarkably polished, but that still leaves some room for improvement. For all the variety here, the jokes can occasionally wear themselves out a little, especially when you run into the same dog over and over. It's rare, but it can happen. Additionally, movement is often painfully slow, which is made more noticeable by how vast and often desolate these canine filled airports can be. The game seems a little self-conscious about this, adding in travellators (the best part of any airport) to get around faster, but even these aren't enough to make movement less frustrating.
Perhaps this all adds to the atmosphere. Stuck in an inexplicable landscape, trying to move to locations that seem impossibly distant and dealing with identikit employees are all integral parts of every airport experience I've ever had. Regardless, none of these flaws is enough to stop An Airport For Aliens Currently Run by Dogs from being an excellent experience. Sublime writing kept me laughing throughout and the surreally funny dogs only made me appreciate the relative normalcy of my character's distant partner more. An Airport For Aliens Currently Run by Dogs may well be one of the funniest games I've played, albeit that's a small pack to draw from, but it's a good place to be for such a perfectly odd experience.
Plus I got to pet at least 30 dogs. I'm not sure what else you can ask for.