Enterprising four-player co-op is deep space fine
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…