The baguettes are soft, croissants are hard, berets are in short supply and Paris is soggier than Seattle. Moreover, the resulting malaise has the French in a funk. Enter The Flying Trapeezees. Set on inspiring France with their amazing aerial skills, the Trapeezee family knows what must be done. They’ve donned their leotards, loaded up their wagon and hit the road in an effort to put an end to the dastardly doldrums.

The cast of characters in this 1887-era aerial troupe includes Monsieur François and Madame Amélie Trapeezee, their daughter Celeste, Grandpa Trapeezee and pet monkey, Bobo. Also, the ghost of Jules Léotard, inventor of the leotard and pioneer of the flying trapeze, is on hand, as well. And, lest you think Jules is a fabrication, Léotard did actually exist, and was in fact the originator of the flying trapeze and the creator of the skin-tight, one-piece garment bearing his name. He was also the inspiration for the well-known 19th century song, “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.”

The Flying Trapeezees is all about performing aerial acrobatics in an effort to accrue points in exchange for entertainment. As the Trapeezee family makes its way across France, city-by-city, you’re challenged to perform aerial stunts of increasing complexity. Each level begins with your selection of one of the game’s character to be shot from a cannon into the troposphere to perform the required acrobatics before landing on the stage below. Gravity, however, is a very unique law in this diversion. The Trapeezees really don’t fall once shot heavenward. You simply direct their actions at different atmospheric levels, slowing making your way earthward as the performance draws to a close.

For instance, your acrobatics may begin at 300 meters, then descend to 200 meters and finally conclude at 100 before landing on the stage below. Each “metered” zone allows you to perform for one or more rows of viewers by collecting colored gems and executing a special trick. Run out of gems and you’ll need to descend to collect more and continue to inspire. And, that’s the key word in this gem-collecting diversion, “inspire.”

Collecting gems inspires the crowd, gains their attention and adds color to their hats, one gem required for each. It also increases the length of a magic trail behind your character that matches the color of the last gem collected. When you’ve gathered enough jewels of the same hue to color an entire row of viewers’ hats, click the mouse to perform a stunt. Wait too long and you’ll lose the crowd’s attention, but act too quickly and you may reduce your point total. Once you’re stunt’s complete, the crowd will toss their hats into the air to collect for extra inspiration points.

Of course, playing The Flying Trapeezees is not quite as simple as it sounds. Get careless and you may end up with a mix of colored hats in the crowd, and that detracts from total points. How? Gems of different colors frequently appear on screen at once. Since action is often quick paced, it’s easy to grab a gem of a different color unintentionally which can mess up your haberdashery “color-streak.” Remedies for the situation exist, but usually at the cost of your overall score. Not all gems are stationary, either. Some remain in place, but others move around when you try and gather them, shoot through the air or float away on balloons.

But, simple gem collecting is not all that awaits the release of The Flying Trapeezees. On some levels, you perform stunts with other family members for extra points. Encircling gems can change their color. And, if you corral flying gems, they create larger jewels that inspire more people. Further, every so often, the ghost of Jules Léotard will appear and grant you a special gift. For example, the ability to create magic dust that changes hat colors when it falls on the crowd or the capability to turn regular gems into super gems that inspire two crowd members instead of one.

Even as a work “in progress,” The Flying Trapeezees looks and plays superbly. Cut scenes are portrayed in a cartoon style similar to that of The Scruffs, and mimic old black and white movie film – dust, scratches and all. Graphics and audio echo the game’s excellent production values. And, it offers a unique change of pace from a sea of bubble-bursting, order-taking, object-finding clones.

Whether you’ll be able to “fly through the air with the greatest of ease” remains to be seen once the game finally lands. Until then, all we can say is that The Flying Trapeezees looks like a strong contender to receive a wholehearted tip of the beret for its ability to both inspire and entertain.