CATASTRONAUTS

En­ter­pris­ing four-player co-op is deep space fine

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - SACRIFICE -

The warn­ing ‘So­lar flare im­mi­nent’ flashes up on-screen, and the ship dark­ens to or­ange. We drop what we’re do­ing and dash to­ward the safe room in the cen­tre of the ship. With sec­onds to go we just about make it, but we all hit the but­ton to close the door at the same time, caus­ing it to open and close re­peat­edly as the flames of a star ap­proach. Play­ing like a mad cross be­tween Over­cooked and RTS space­ship sim games, fre­netic mul­ti­player sit­u­a­tions like this form the crux of Catastronauts. It chal­lenges your crew of up to four play­ers to keep your space­ship in­tact as it bat­tles an en­emy off-screen in sit­u­a­tions that grad­u­ally be­come more chaotic and hard to deal with. At its most sim­ple you work to­gether us­ing a lim­ited num­ber of tool­boxes and fire ex­tin­guish­ers to re­pair cracks in the ship and douse flames, while re­mem­ber­ing to fire your guns once they’ve charged up to re­pel the as­sault. But things are rarely that easy, as it chal­lenges even the tight­est of crews with fiendish vari­a­tions that force you to spread re­sources thinly, and des­per­ately mul­ti­task. “To keep the hec­tic na­ture of the game, we needed to pro­vide more roles than there are play­ers,” says lead game de­vel­oper Kieran New­land.

GET YOUR SHIP TO­GETHER

It’s the sort of game that could be har­row­ing and bru­tal in other hands, but In­er­tia Game Stu­dios has put the em­pha­sis on goofy fun. The sim­ple de­signs pop, and every­thing feels clear in our hands-on, the dif­fi­culty ly­ing in sim­ply man­ag­ing the tasks with the other play­ers as things get more hec­tic.

“We’ve kept the con­trols as sim­ple as we can,” New­land tells us, and in­deed there’s lit­tle in the way to stop you bum­bling through things. Us­ing a tool­box is as sim­ple as stand­ing next to what­ever needs re­pair­ing and hold­ing r, and the same ap­plies to us­ing fire ex­tin­guish­ers. The com­plex­ity comes from the silly sit­u­a­tions play­ers make for them­selves, like get­ting set on fire, madly run­ning to­wards your crew­mate with the fire ex­tin­guisher, then ac­ci­den­tally bump­ing into more friends and see­ing them on fire too (which def­i­nitely doesn’t hap­pen to us, hon­est).

Our squad only plays through the handful of lev­els that are cur­rently avail­able, but the vari­a­tion within those is spec­tac­u­larly in­ven­tive each time. You might be able to keep your ship to­gether, but there’s no guar­an­tee the same can be said for friend­ships. But New­land isn’t wor­ried about caus­ing stress – “I think that’s a lit­tle bit of the magic that a lo­cal co-op game can bring that a sin­gle-player game wouldn’t be able to.”

“KEEP YOUR SPACE­SHIP IN­TACT AS IT BAT­TLES AN EN­EMY OFF-SCREEN.”

There’s a lot of vari­a­tion in char­ac­ter de­signs, but shouldn’t they all be wear­ing red shirts?

Above Die, and you’ll re­turn as a clone from the med­bay. Pro­vid­ing it’s not bro­ken, of course…

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