It’s safe to say couch co-op is back and very much alive and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime Delivers a fun packed and refreshing style of gameplay. Conceived at a Toronto Global Game Jam in January 2012, Asteroid Base took inspiration from the frantic scene in Star Wars, where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are climbing ladders whilst shooting TIE Fighters in the Millenium Falcon, and gave it a vibrant and chaotic twist.
After a serious malfunction of the XOXO Matrix of the Ardor Reactor, protected and maintained by the League of Very Empathic Rescue Spacenauts, the Matrix was destroyed. With the Ardor Reactor out of action, the dark force of Anti-Love was allowed to freely roam around the universe, kidnapping lovers along the way. It is up to you to find both the missing matrix pieces, and the lost lovers, to rebuild the Ardor Reactor.
The first thing that hits you with Lovers of a Dangerous Spacetime is its bright neon style. Bright colours fill the screen, as numerous enemies fight against you as you search out the missing creatures littered about the universe. It’s almost too colourful at times, especially when all hell breaks loose, and rockets, laser beams, and the forces of Anti-Love fill the screen.
The game’s soundtrack matches the visual style perfectly, with its bouncy electronic sounds, and fun and funky bass. It’s poppy, but not pop, and works beautifully with the frantic gameplay. It’s also good to see that each level has its own soundtrack, so you won’t hear the same piece of music twice within a single playthrough. If you want a sneak peek of the soundtrack, and the opportunity to purchase it, you can listen to a few tracks at http://ryanhenwood.bandcamp.com/releases.
Offering both single and couch co-op, Lovers is a frantic, and sometimes frustrating, romp through space. There are four different acts to complete on your quest for returning the missing pieces of the XOXO Matrix, each with their own visual and style. At the beginning, you are lured into a false sense of security, as you whizz through the first set of levels, and take down your first boss.
Each level follows the same pattern, fly through the area fighting enemies as you hunt down the missing friends, of which a minimum of five are required to finish the level. In total there are 10 friends to collect, so it is left to you to decide whether you want to continue searching, or just finish the level and move on. However, the more friends you collect, the quicker you can unlock upgrades for your ship.
The ship, referred to as the Prototype, is split up into individual rooms. Within each room is a particular item you can control, whether it’s the thrusters which move the ship, the shield, or the weapons. It’s a careful balancing act between moving the ship around, keeping it safe, and fending off enemies to ensure that it is not destroyed, resulting in a restart of the level. Thankfully, there is always someone by your side to help you out.
When playing in single player, you have the option to choose between an AI dog or cat, whom you can assign to the various controls within the ship. Once they are assigned a role, weapons for example, it is up to you to decide where they should go next. When the fight is getting more chaotic, it can be difficult to try to juggle everything, and your AI buddy won’t move unless you tell them to. They’ll quite happily sit there, moving the shield around, but won’t automatically move unless told to do so. If you want a more sentient being to help out, Lovers offers couch co-op, so you can bring a willing friend along.
Multiplayer is great fun, but unless you’re able to work together, it can go terribly wrong. Communication is key, and things can go very bad, very quickly, so make sure you’re on good terms to begin with.
The ship itself can be upgraded throughout the campaign, in two different ways. At the beginning of the level, and during, little presents can be shot down which can contain gems. There are three different types of gem – power, metal, and beam, which can be attached to either the weapons, thrusters, shield, or your super weapon, to upgrade them and give them new abilities. For example, adding a metal gem to your standard blaster will upgrade it to a mace, which can be launched and swung around to take out enemies and their rockets. Later on, you can upgrade the ship’s elements to allow two gems to be attached, making your thrusters more powerful, and have it release metal spikes behind it. These ship upgrades can be unlocked by collecting a set amount of friends per tier, increasing your rank, and unlocking greater upgrades such as additional gem slots, and new ship types.
Overall, I enjoyed Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, with its bright visuals, funky soundtrack, and simple yet sadistic gameplay. However I did find that by the end of the third act, the difficulty suddenly spiked, and despite being two previous bosses that were easy to dispatch, it took much longer to figure out how to take third down. I also struggled at times to play it for longer than an hour or so. It can get quick repetitive at times, with only the different enemy types and damage mechanics changing, I did find myself losing interest.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a neat title, which I would recommend, but is not something to sit down and playthrough in one sitting. It’s great as a breather from more challenging titles, and for $14.99 is definitely worth a punt.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is available to download on September 9 on Xbox One, and on Steam for PC and Mac.
Thanks to Xbox and Asteroid Base for their support.
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