Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime
PC, Xbox One
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.