Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Review: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime


Up until very recent years I don’t recall there being too many games out there that centered on team dynamics and communication to accomplish common goals. Even in the relatively early days of the Switch we now already have two strong examples of them. While Overcooked had you working cooperatively to some degree, depending on how you and your friends would choose to approach things, you could still somewhat get locked into your role and crank things out. With Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime your collective survival is much more often dependent on people being ready and willing to dive into whatever role may be necessary at the time, and the level of unpredictability to everything is higher and that generally makes the game both more exciting and, at times, heartbreaking.


The story is a bit on the odd side, involving the universe in harmony and everything being happy but then something goes wrong and now anti-love is spreading. Of course you and up to 3 of your friends are being called to help prevent this catastrophe by flying your ship around to go collect the innocent little bunnies who have been imprisoned and who are apparently necessary to returning everything back to the way it was. As you can tell the game doesn’t really take itself terribly seriously and the artistic style, awash in color and happiness, helps underline that in case you missed it. Over the course of the game’s 20 levels you will face all manner of enemies but love will prevail!

The gameplay revolves around your ship, which has 8 stations: 4 normal guns, the engine, a moving shield, a map, and a powerful gun that does a great deal of damage but has a bit of a recharge to it. You and your shipmates will have to move between stations in order to meet the challenges you are facing but most critically in the direction you’re facing them in. While you can normally place the shield in a good spot and then try to maneuver your ship around, depending on the situation you find yourself in you may need to get all hands on deck at the guns, you may need someone manning the shield to prevent damage from all directions, or you may need to take a few hits so someone can activate the big gun and hopefully clear things out a bit all at once. While you’ll tend to want the same person in charge of the engines who understands the concept of momentum very well, for the most part all other stations should remain up for grabs for people to coordinate between carefully. In order to improve your ability to survive the later levels you can both find little gift boxes that will upgrade your systems and if you work to find more bunnies on each level than is required you’ll more quickly be able to upgrade to do things like unlock additional slots to make your stations even more effective. The level of risk/reward to this is welcome as taking some chances to find these extras isn’t necessary but if you work hard the increased rate with which you can then enhance your ship makes the return very much worth the effort, and this is especially true the further you get into the game.


Though Spacetime is a lot of fun with 4 local players it was originally designed to be either a single or two-player experience and basically no matter how you choose to play the game dynamics work well and are a lot of fun. Oddly in each configuration the game can feel quite different. With 3 or 4 players the game becomes all about communication and you’re more likely to have people fall into dedicated roles, a bit Star Trek-esque perhaps with someone on engines, someone ready to work the shields and the big gun, and then 2 people mostly dedicated to using the guns and working at the different placements as needed in order to best protect the ship. In 2-player mode one person generally sticks with the engine, with the other one trying to satisfy all of the other roles whenever possible, but when you find yourself in bigger fights you’ll find you need to park the ship and quickly get on the guns to help fight off something perhaps a bit more formidable. Lastly the single-player mode a completely different feel again as you’ll only have your cute little AI pet to help you, with the game feeling more strategic then as you command it to go from station to station in order to get in position for best defending the ship. Thankfully when you go to command them the game roughly stops, giving you time to breathe a little bit so you can plan out what you’ll need to do. In all cases I found playing the game to be enjoyable, it was just almost like the 1-player experience was a different game in many regards from playing with others since you need to actively control so much more.

No matter how you may choose to play it I think Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime has a lot going for it both in terms of challenges and fun. Whether you need to exercise your ability to maintain strong team dynamics or to figure out the best strategies for you and your AI pet to be the most successful there are opportunities for both success and failure everywhere. Whether it is trying to get things right the first time by the seat of your pants or failing, regrouping, and coming back with an even better plan of attack there aren’t pressing stakes to worry about. You’re just trying to have fun with the situation being presented to you and to make the most of it. I think it is the light-hearted nature of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime I like the most and though it probably better realizes its potential the more people you have to play it with there’s still a satisfying experience to be had alone if that’s how you roll as well. Recommended!


Score: 9

Pros:
  • Plays well as a single-player strategic game of sorts
  • Plays even better as a cooperative game with up to 3 friends
  • Throughout the game there are varied surprises with enemies that kept things just a little off-center and pleasantly unpredictable


Cons:
  • The cute overload could be overwhelming for some
  • Without anybody to play with at all locally it loses a major component of what helps it be the best it can be


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