The Brew Barons is a game about alcohol tycoons who fly seaplanes across a fictional version of the Mediterranean in search of the best orders, rare ingredients, and a good fight with air pirates. Yes, the game’s authors are very fond of Studio Ghibli anime and especially Porco Rosso.

Гра The Brew Barons
Genre arcade simulator
Platforms Windows
Languages English
Developer Lifetap Studios
Publisher Lifetap Studios

Porco Rosso

The developers from Lifetap Studios do not hide the fact that the source of inspiration for The Brew Barons is the anime Porco Rosso. If by some miracle you haven’t watched this animated movie yet, we strongly recommend that you do. Miyazaki is truly in love with airplanes, and Porco Rosso, which tells the story of a former military pilot turned boar hunting air pirates between the Adriatic islands in the 1920s and 30s, is his declaration of love for the sky.

To avoid getting up twice, check out The Wind Rises, another Miyazaki film about airplanes.

I would also add to the sources of inspiration the aviation arcade game Crimson Skies by Zipper Interactive and Aces Game Studio. The battles with giant pirate boss zeppelins in The Brew Barons literally transport us to this game from 2000. By the way, I would love to see a remake of Crimson Skies.

The golden age of hydroplanes

The author of The Brew Barons has really managed to embody the atmosphere of Porco Rosso and the golden age of seaplanes (1920 – early 1930) in the game. You get the impression that you are right in the middle of a cartoon. The same islands scattered across the deep blue sea with forests, fields and white houses of small towns. The same graceful and swift silhouettes of airplanes on floats swaying on the waves or cutting through the blue sky with puffy white clouds floating on it.

The developers at Lifetap Studios even managed to capture the characteristic visual style of Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki cartoons. And the music: it is also somewhat reminiscent of the music that Porco Rosso used to play during flights.

And of course, the airplanes. Like the planes in the Studio Ghibli cartoon, they resemble real seaplanes of the 1920s and 30s, both transport and combat vehicles and racing planes that once competed for the Schneider Cup, which, by the way, is also mentioned in Porco Rosso.

This is almost a Curtiss R3C. This seaplane is somewhat similar to a Macchi M.39. And this is almost an Aeromarine 75 or CAMS 33. This seems to have been drawn from a Canadian Vickers Vedette. And this one is from the Supermarine Southampton. Felixstowe F.2, Curtiss NC, Aero A.29, Ireland Neptune, Breda A.7, Consolidated P2Y, Consolidated PB2Y Coronado, Dornier Do X… You can search for the seaplanes that inspired the game authors on your own.

By the way, did you know that one of the pioneers of hydroplanes was Ukrainian aircraft designer Dmytro Hryhorovych (1883-1938)?

Airplanes and alcohol

As the name suggests, The Brew Barons is a game about alcohol producers. You have to search for rare ingredients and new recipes; brew quality beer, cider, wine, or distill stronger drinks such as brandy, vodka, liqueurs, etc. with their help; and deliver all this on your seaplane to customers’ bars. The rest can and should be sold in your own bar. So it’s a kind of simulator for a farmer, manager, and bartender. But also a pilot.

Because rare ingredients grow on distant islands, and you need to use your airplane to collect them. Flying over a field at low altitude, you cut off cereals with a propeller, knock fruit off trees with a water gun, and “drip” vegetables with water bombs. Some ingredients will literally have to be pulled out of the water with a hook. It all sounds a little funny, but The Brew Barons is an arcade game, and it’s even more interesting than just clicking on plants in some farm or survival simulator.

Pirate storm

But the world of The Brew Barons is quite dangerous. Some islands of the archipelago are controlled by pirate lords, some cities are captured, and pirate patrols can be found over others. So you have to fight to get rare ingredients, access to new markets, and parts to modify your hydroplane. And given that pirates here fly huge powerful airplanes, sail submarines, and some live in giant airships that look like flying fortresses, the battles will be tough.

We suggest saving money immediately from contracts for drawings for the heavy aircraft. It has more additional weapons, including water torpedoes, turrets, and a combat drone on a rope, and is generally more durable, although it handles worse. In addition, it is worth upgrading the propeller, machine gun, and bombs: they deal more damage to enemies, and in addition, they allow you to collect rarer ingredients to make more expensive alcohol.

The boss battles are a bit long for our taste: in the time it takes to defeat a pack of submarines or a huge zeppelin, your pilot can get tired and lose consciousness. There are also some questions about the controls: with a gamepad, they are a bit complicated, as if it were an arcade game, and with a mouse, you will get less control over the plane. I’d also like to say something about collecting ingredients with bombs… it’s very inconvenient.

Additional activities

In fact, the biggest drawback of The Brew Barons is the slow start of the game. You have only a light plane and a few recipes, it takes a long time to fly between islands, you have no money, and there seem to be few additional activities. But in 5-10 hours, everything will be the opposite, and you have to do a lot in a limited amount of time.

Here you have to retrieve treasures from the seabed that were left on the shipwreck, here you have to prevent pirates from desecrating a distant island, here you have to collect additional ingredients and find new recipes, here you have to help a patrol plane. Meanwhile, you have a list of immediate orders from four different bars that you simply don’t have time to fulfill.

In addition, it turns out that if some pilots fly a lot of time together (each plane has a place for a pilot and a navigator/shooter), they will get a unique mission that may have a completely different gameplay. There are more than a dozen such missions, and in fact, you have 12 pilots who can either sit at the helm or stand behind the bar, or manage a workshop or brewery. In addition, completing missions allows pilots to get rid of character flaws and get additional bonuses, and sometimes even opens access to separate mini-games.

Stormy skies

The Brew Barons is a good game with a very pleasant atmosphere. For example, there are no kills at all, and the defeated pirates run away somewhere over the horizon, just like in the Porco Rosso cartoon. The Brew Barons would be a perfect airplane arcade game that would have a chance to become a cult game if not for some drawbacks, such as a delayed start of the game, slightly slow planes, slightly awkward controls, interface and resource collection, as well as a few bugs that prevent you from enjoying the game. The authors, and let me remind you that these are only two people, promptly release patches, although there are still plenty of bugs.

But, in my opinion, the authors of The Brew Barons can be forgiven for the Porco Rosso atmosphere. It’s not a perfect game, but it does have something of that. So I will continue to play The Brew Barons and then take off on a seaplane along the Adriatic coast in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Besides, I’m looking forward to Lifetap Studios’ next game, a car adventure in the post-apocalyptic world Wastehaven.