Bazaar is a strange game. In fact, with only a small change to the name it would be described perfectly in the title. I propose the following “Weird Flying Carpet Stuff-Gathering Game with Monkeys and Crocodiles. And More!” Yeah, that is pretty much this game in a nutshell. And if that doesn’t sound like a good time to you then I propose you don’t know how to have a good time.
In Bazaar you are on a flying carpet, sailing through a dream-like, pastel coloured, Arabian, Venice-esque city with streets of water filled with crocodiles, fish, snakes, monkeys and the occasional monster (god?). And scattered around this city are various items to collect. Things like gold coins, parasols, shields, crossbows, turkish delight, anti-venom bottles and, well you’re probably noticing the pattern. You pick these items up by staring at them. The first time you pick one up the game will tell you what it is, but not necessarily what it is for. And then that description will fly up to the sky and embed itself in a constellation where you can see it any time you need to just by looking up. Gives a whole new meaning to looking something up. I actually cringed as I wrote that just now. Why am I leaving it in?
After you pick up an item it is stored in a little box in front of you on your carpet. To use it you have to stare at the box for a second to bring up your inventory list, then stare at the item you want to use for the same duration of time and then the item is activated. For those who don’t like spoilers I will resist the urge to tell you what the items do, but they aren’t just to look pretty. You will want them, and in some cases need them.
Also in front of you on the carpet are two guages. One is a heart that depletes when you take damage and another is a plate with a knife and fork. This one depletes slowly over time and when it gets really low it growls at you. Once it is fully depleted your heart container starts to follow suit. Spoiler alert! You can refill this one by eating things.
In Bazaar, though collecting items and exploring the maps will take up most of your time, there are only two things you absolutely have to do. Find the key and the exit, and restore artifacts back to this giant monster/god, Lamassu. All of the other items are there to help you do that safely. Once you have the key you can pass through a gate into the next district, which usually introduces a new type of trap or obstacle and some new items, including possibly an artifact that is actually a piece of Lamassu. If you pick up the piece you have to find Lamassu and give it back before leaving the level.
Each new district also seems to be bigger than the one before it. If you’re anything like me you will want to explore the entire district before moving on, but this may not be the best idea. It will help you stock up on items and gold, but it won’t take long before you can’t hold any more items and then you’ll be in the horrible predicament of deciding whether or not to leave the item you found, or drop one of the items in your box. Sometimes you will be able to use an item without wasting it, as some of them are activated and not used until necessary, but more often than not, you will have to leave something behind.
(This next paragraph is a little spoilery. You have been warned.)
The districts seem to be, to an extent, randomly generated. At least insofar as traps and items are concerned, though my memory is not good enough to tell if the layout of each map changes. There are items that will help you hold more things either by allowing you to bundle like items in one spot in your item box, such as a coin purse for storing all your stacks of gold coins, or else by being indestructable so you don’t have to carry several of that item just to be prepared. Usually, though not always, these items are purchased from the vendor who you can find in each district. Even what the vendor is selling seems to be randomly generated though, so on occasion he will be selling something on the first map that would be extrememly helpful but you have no chance of being able to afford it because it will take you several districts to acquire that much gold. Other times he will offer you items you already have which can be a bit frustrating if you are holding your coins for a particular item and they are preventing you from picking up other things that might be useful. This makes it a bit like a card game where you have to play the hand you are dealt. Sometimes the items will be in your favour, other times not so much.
This section was originally about how starting from the beginning every time would be something you either loved or hated. I tended to hate it because I would get pretty far, die and have to start all over again. Usually it resulted in me taking the headset off and doing something else for a while. But I went back in to the game last night for what I thought would be the final time before posting the review so that I could check something about the music and discovered something that I had missed in all of my previous playthroughs. It made Bazaar a much better game than I thought it was.
What I found was something called a mission box. Apparently this was added on December 18th, which is why I didn’t know it was there. If you played Bazaar pre-mission box addition, then you need to go back to it because it changes everything. The mission box gives you tasks that you can complete to earn diamonds which you can then spend in the diamond store, another a new addition on the 18th. It is really like a level up system that makes you, in a sense, more powerful for your next playthrough. And the things that you buy in the diamond store carry over between games. When you die, you still have to start the game from the first district, but you are not back to square one and that makes the game so much more rewarding than it used to be.
Again, when I first started writing this I was complaining about the hunger gauge and how it seemed out of place and just a nuisance. But thanks to the mission box, the hunger gauge no longer feels like a timer to prevent me from exploring. As this was my biggest complaint about the game, this is a pretty big deal.
The only complaint I have left if that I can’t stop the carpet from moving. I can speed it up if need be. I can turn it around. But I can’t stop it unless I hit a wall. This isn’t a terribly big problem but there are definitely times when being able to stop the carpet would be helpful because you need an item and you don’t have time to open the box, select and use the item before reaching the trap that you need it to avoid. It’s possible that more careful planning could or should be used to avoid such situations, but that does little to calm you down when you have navigated yourself between two traps and you’re doing pirouettes to turn your carpet around while trying also to grab the needed item.
Originally Bazaar was controlled by gaze only, but this recent update brought in some controller support as well. You can now rotate the view with the shoulder buttons or access your map, mission box or item chest from the controller. Item pick up and route selection remain gaze based. If I could add one more option to the controller support it would be the speed up and slow down the carpet with the analogue stick and, if the controller is detected, remove the circle at the front of the carpet that serves as the gas pedal because that circle gets in the way as often as it is helpful. And now that I think about it, I would also assign one of the buttons as the confirm button so that you don’t accidentally start turning down a street you don’t want to while trying to access your chest or pick up an item. But both of these are relatively insignificant compared to the magnitude of improvement brought in the last update.
The music of Bazaar is catchy at first but as there seems to be only one track it does begin to get old after a few hours of play time. I have a high tolerance for music on repeat, but some people will probably be driven mad by this. If that describes you then you can always turn the music off and just play with the sound effects, which are for the most part satisfying enough. I did this for one playthrough and though it seemed strange at first, before long I barely noticed there was no music.
I can’t imagine that you would be able to beat this game on your first playthrough, but if you could you are looking at around an hour of play time. If you are like me though and it takes you many tries to get through the game, you are looking at around three to five hours just to make it to the end credits, but there will still be stuff to unlock for the hundred percenters out there.
Bazaar is an odd duck. But it’s a good looking, fun, somewhat addictive odd duck. It has a graphical style that belongs entirely to itself. Thanks to a recent update the depth and replayability of the game has increased almost enough to label this version Bazaar 2.0. If you’ve never played it, it’s definitely worth a look (especially if you are reading this before January 6th 2016 because it’s 33% off right now) and if you played it before but couldn’t beat it and lost your drive to try, the update might just make you want to load it up again.