"The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon."

As far as game setups go, Passing By – A Tailword Journey may have one of the most unique ones. A young woman, Curly, lives all alone on a floating island. One day, a mailman shows up with his balloon and somehow convinces her to do his job. He gives her the basics of balloon flight mechanics, hands her a letter she has to deliver without telling her who gets it, then…I don’t know. I guess he takes over her island while she does his job?

I don’t know why Curly falls for this. Like, imagine if your Door Dash driver showed up with your food, but instead of handing it to you he makes you finish his deliveries while he moves into your house and eats your shrimp mei fun. But, it gives us a game to play, and I guess that’s all that matters in the end.

Passing By – A Tailwind Journey is a game of platforming, exploration, and survival.

Curly must pilot the balloon to numerous floating islands, determining which are worth visiting for various reasons. Once there, she’ll need to solve basic environmental puzzles and engage in some light platforming in order to complete the tasks set forth by the islands’ inhabitants. All the while, she’ll need to keep herself fed, hydrated, and rested.

If it sounds kind of pleasant, it kind of is. Passing By is a low-stakes game, but it’s not without its stressful moments. Those begin with balloon navigation, as Curly’s aircraft is not optimized for efficient operation. She’ll need to climb ladders to get around, and there’s quite a bit to do: control altitude, control velocity, seek out locations and resources, rest, and drop anchor when she’s ready to land.

Most actions just require her to be near the proper device and hit a button, but when the balloon is moving on its own (tailwind, don’t you know), getting to the right function in the proper amount of time can be tricky. Thankfully, the game never moves too quickly, and you don’t need to be too precise when dropping anchor.

The more I played the game, the more adept I became at balloon piloting. And that’s good, because the bulk of the gameplay centers around what you actually do on the islands. Obviously, you’ll need supplies. The balloon uses gas to float. Curly needs water and food to survive. Running low? Find an island with a stream and some apple trees. Small islands that offer these items are plentiful, and they continually reappear to help you stay stocked up.

The larger islands are more fun to explore, however, as this is where you run into Passing Bys cadre of quirky characters and random tasks.

There’s an awful lot to do, and the major requests never felt extraneous or repetitious. Meeting people (and animals) and helping them out did a great job of breaking up the monotony of gathering resources and flying the balloon, kind of like visiting a tourist destination on a cross-country trip when you’re bored of driving and hitting up gas stations for fuel and grape Propel. A few of the puzzles are tricky to figure out, but they’re fun to execute. The platforming, likewise, isn’t terribly difficult, but I found it strange that Curly could fall off ledges or from the balloon. If ever a game warranted invisible boundaries, it’s this one.

It helps that the graphics are so pleasing. The environments are geometric and not very detailed—kind of like lightly crumpled paper—but are bright and lively. The rich color palates change naturally, giving everything a nice flow. Between the visuals, the gentle music, and the light ambient audio, the islands of Passing By are calming and welcoming locations to explore.

Still, I’m not sure everyone will want to explore them. It’s fun to help out the various people Curly meets, but that’s really all there is to do. Fly, land, get some stuff done, move on. That may be a metaphor for life, but those seeking more than that may find themselves wishing for more than a tailwind to push things along.