By Phil Schipper / August 15th, 2014
|Publisher||Focus Home Interactive|
|Release Date||June 13, 2014|
What happens when you put tower defense in space? Well, you’re just a couple of steps away from having Space Run!
Okay, it’s definitely not that simple, but it certainly looks that way right up front, and it goes a long way towards explaining what’s actually going on here. Each mission in Space Run starts with a basically empty ship structure made up of hexagonal spaces. Starting with your cargo and at least one thruster for launch, your main job is to use your resources and fill these spaces with helpful objects to get you through.
Your two main weapons are lasers and missiles. Laser cannons are cheap and can hit even the tiniest asteroids, but they need their own space just outside the ship. After a bit, you’ll get the ability to change the direction that the lasers face at any time, giving you more flexibility. Missile launchers, on the other hand, cost a bit more, but can be placed anywhere on the ship. The direction that they face is permanent, but the missiles will travel right over your other components and deal heavy damage to their targets.
If offensive buildings aren’t enough, you can also rely on more defensive measures. The most obvious option, and a very helpful one, is a shield generator. These generate force fields in a certain number of surrounding spaces. Enemy attacks won’t be able to touch you until they’ve broken through the shields. Alternatively, when dealing with larger enemies, you can use jammers that target their weapons and stop them from firing for a while. The bigger the boss, the more effective this tactic can be.
The third and final category of ship parts is utility structures, and like the others, it has two smaller types within it. One is the aforementioned thruster, which is obviously required to get you through space. Missions hinge on making it to the end not only alive, but also by a hard deadline, so it’s actually vital that you have enough. The other component you’ll want is the power generator. Power is passed to every structure in an adjacent space. Some of your tools are upgraded or can unleash a special ability when powered, while more powerful versions of objects are required to have power in order to even function in the first place.
Even the cargo you’ll be carrying has a number of varieties. At first, they’ll just be crates, but soon you’ll be faced with explosives that damage your ship when they’re destroyed, placing a greater importance on protecting them. After that, you have “VIP Passengers” which require power to survive and have to be placed at the ship’s edge for the best view of space. It really only gets more inconvenient from there.
The amount of this cargo that you deliver successfully in the mission contributes to your star rating. The rest is determined by how quickly you get it there. Your top star ratings from each mission combine to give you a reputation score, which allows you to unlock new and upgraded versions of the basic ship parts or add new abilities to the ones you have. In order to actually get access to them, though, you have to spend Space Credits, which are also earned from your mission performance.
Newer ship parts generally take up much more space and need to be powered, but the tradeoff is often worth it for increased effectiveness. Depending on the size of your ship and the difficulty of the situation, you’ll find there’s a pattern to creating “nests” of buildings — that is, one or two powerful objects grouped with a power supply and shield to keep them running effectively. Or you can just spam cheap weapons, but good luck keeping up when you have to replace them all.
The graphics are pretty static and look like refurbished, sharper versions of games like this from about 10 years ago. Zooming in and out is my main complaint, as you have to hold down the key to do it. Since it can, at times, take some close examination to even distinguish parts on your ship, it should be more convenient. The voices and sound effects in the game lend well to the throwback atmosphere, and the music is so spot-on you probably won’t even notice it, since it’s most dramatic in the moments where you’re frantically trying to survive, and rather quiet during the lulls.
Every once in a while between missions, you’ll get a little scene where Buck Mann, the extremely arrogant main character, talks with his snarky android assistant and a client. Generally, the dialogue is full of nothing but stale banter and reminders of how awesome Buck thinks he is. It kind of tricks you into feeling like there is actual story to this game where there isn’t.
Other scenes feature leaders of space pirate groups, signalling that the stage is going to feature a boss fight. These battles are pretty interesting. While there are other ships out there that use components like your ship, only the pirate leaders have full-sized, battle-ready vessels that will truly challenge you to outclass them. Upon appearing, they immediately send out a chain of light that disables all of your thrusters, allowing them to slowly circle you while exchanging fire. While many of them will eventually flee after a minute or two of this, it does feel pretty satisfying to actually destroy them. However, disappointingly enough, there’s really no bonus of any kind for doing that.
Each stage eventually comes down to several attempts. First, you have to scout it out, because there’s no hint as to what you’ll face except for the level title, and each one is, to be fair, unique enough to warrant a considerable amount of brand-new battle planning. After that, you’ll play it a few times to try to work out a viable strategy, until ultimately you scrape by. Finally, later on, you’ll find yourself going back to improve, desperate for the Space Credits and reputation stars it offers. There are only around 30 stages in this game, but the number of times you’ll play them brings this game to more like 30 hours if you want to truly finish. Seeing as most stages only take about 10 minutes, you can see that it becomes a lot of repetition and grinding the further you go.
So, I really only enjoyed the first few hours. After that… I found myself needing to enlist friends to help me work through certain parts. Greater strategic minds than my own — especially those who miss the heyday of tower defense games — will love Space Run and should pick it up on Steam for $14.99 USD. Personally, though, I was a little less-than-thrilled with it a lot of the time.
Review copy provided by publisher
Space Run is available on Amazon:
Focus Home Interactivepasstech gamesPCPC gamesspace runTower Defensetower defense games