Lovers In A Dan­ger­ous Space­time

PC, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher/devel­oper As­ter­oid Base For­mat PC (ver­sion tested), Xbox One Re­lease Out now

Rep­re­sented in games as di­verse as FTL and Ker­bal Space Pro­gram, the com­plex­i­ties of in­ter­stel­lar travel have proven to be fer­tile ground for game de­sign­ers. This year we’ve al­ready had Knap­nok’s ter­rific Af­ford­able Space Ad­ven­tures, and now Lovers In A Dan­ger­ous Space­time of­fers a sim­i­lar sen­sa­tion of hav­ing too much to deal with at any given time. Sure, you’ll al­ways have an ex­tra pair of hands, whether you’re bark­ing in­struc­tions at a nearby hu­man part­ner or or­der­ing an AI as­sis­tant into po­si­tion via an in­tu­itive but­ton-and-stick com­mand menu. Yet you’re regularly left feel­ing one mem­ber short of a full crew.

That’s the point. This is a clas­sic plate-spin­ning act, see­ing you dash around your cir­cu­lar craft, shin­ning up lad­ders to check your radar, and down them to fire at in­com­ing threats. Weapons are in­stalled at the four com­pass points, plus there’s a fifth that cir­cles the ex­te­rior, de­liv­er­ing a pow­er­ful volley when ac­ti­vated. Time it right, and you can take out mul­ti­ple hos­tiles, though it must recharge be­tween uses. You’re also tasked with po­si­tion­ing a shield that takes up a mere quad­rant of your craft’s cir­cum­fer­ence, plus steer­ing your ship by ro­tat­ing the en­gine into po­si­tion and squeez­ing X – the one role an AI part­ner can’t han­dle. In one early stage, you’re given a new ex­ter­nal en­gine, which must be safe­guarded as you travel through hy­per­space while fac­ing a dozen waves of en­e­mies. It’s the kind of neat twist the game re­ally needs more of

Though the con­trols are pleas­ingly im­me­di­ate, it’s a lot to han­dle, and devel­oper As­ter­oid Base is ea­ger to re­move the train­ing wheels quickly, its pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated en­vi­ron­ments hid­ing waves of chiti­nous nas­ties be­hind the clouds of un­ex­plored ter­ri­tory on your radar’s dis­play. You need only res­cue five of the ten crea­tures se­creted within each level, though lo­cat­ing more is ad­vis­able, since you’ll be able to level up much quicker, and each one saved re­plen­ishes a small amount of your ship’s health gauge. Float­ing crates hold weapon up­grades that can turn two can­nons into three, and you can con­tinue to stack them if you fancy wield­ing a spiked wreck­ing ball that fires laser beams.

Sadly, these ideas barely de­velop. By the third of four short cam­paigns, you might be shoot­ing so­lar sur­faces to spawn fire­balls that break ice bar­ri­ers and bat­tling against snowy squalls, but your tac­tics re­main much the same. When fly­ing solo, you’ll soon es­tab­lish that the most ef­fi­cient strat­egy is to put your AI part­ner on shield duty and power up your en­gines to fire lasers be­hind you; with no real ben­e­fit to fight over flight, you can leave the weapons mostly un­touched. With a part­ner, you’ll merely need to de­cide who gets the more mun­dane role of the two. The hope and ex­pec­ta­tion gen­er­ated by a suc­cess­ful launch dis­si­pates all too quickly, leav­ing these lovers float­ing aim­lessly among the stars, a space­ship with­out a rud­der.

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