Space age

November 29, 2014

(For IOS, and easily worth four times the asking price.)

Space age is a gem. It is a sort of tactical adventure game viewed from above in a glorious pixelated fashion. It is a highly polished experience built with great focus. It is full of nostalgia, from the way it presents itself through how it plays and deep into the story. It is just the kind of thing I want independent developers to create, just the kind of thing I want to enjoy and support. Just the kind of thing I want the world to be full of. Who needs huge games when we can have lots of small ones like this instead?

It is also surprisingly unpolished in certain specific ways. As far as I noticed, there was not a single instruction about how to actually play the game. Mission hints were clear and nicely designed, but how to actually do stuff? That is clearly all up to us to figure out. I have played plenty of games. I thoroughly enjoyed many of the great old realtime strategy games from which Space age evolves a lot of both look and mechanics. Even so, I struggled to find some interactions. I am not sure I would have realized you can make a square with two fingers to select multiple units, and I am not sure you can efficiently get through the game without doing that. Come to think of it, even tapping units to select them was something I found by accident, by unintentionally managing to deselect Private in an early mission. Game mechanics felt like a puzzle in themselves. A puzzle I had not expected and found no fun in figuring out.

I also have to agree with others that the timing and action parts of Space age are the least enjoyable part. Timing-based puzzles in particular felt like nothing but a chore, and I actually started dreading more of them coming up. Action involving shooting was better, in some part because it felt a bit more forgiving and easy. I definitely had fun shooting at enemies most of the time, but it was often just on the right side of the line.

So, what is the actual meat of Space age? Exploration and story. And the whole visual and aural experience. Graphics are wonderfully retro-pixel-styled, sounds are spot on and the music … is too. It is sometimes quiet, sometimes feel like great old game music, sometimes like sweeping cinematic space opera, sometimes anything inbetween, but always feels just right.

Hopefully I am wrong about the gameplay problems. Hopefully casual gamers pick it up, stick with it and discover all they need to keep moving. If not, a lot of people will miss out on a real gem with just a few rough facets.

I certainly want more. I look forward to Big bucket's next creation, and I sure would not mind if an expansion or sequel to Space age was drifting somewhere out there.