REVIEW: Main Sequence

Main Sequence (80 MSP) is a world-building game. Literally, in that you, the tiniest rock on the block, must swallow other celestial bodies (dwarfs, of course; never pick a fair fight) to biggie-size yourself, thereby and eventually becoming top star in your respective solar system.

Though there’s not much to see in that solar system. Hundreds of balls, some in different sizes, some in color but mostly grays, set against the stark blackness of space. It doesn’t exactly take your breath away (or it does, if you’re not space-suited up), so it helps to have an imagination and / or consider it beyond its looks.

The idea is similar to the Solar games already on XBLIG, or something like Osmos (the Dev’s own admission). You must build your core, slowly and meticulously, launching yourself around the level by ejecting mass (which, fair warning, shrinks you with each shot). That same discarded mass can ‘grow’ the bodies around you, altering trajectories and helping (or hurting) your cause. You can also zoom out (and you should) to gain a better appreciation of the given stage’s scope and moving pieces. It’s equal parts puzzle and strategy.

Games like these tend to attract the more casual crowd, but Main Sequence is anything but a pushover. There is no progression to speak of; all of the game’s ten stages are selectable from the start to allow you a taste of anything you’re in the mood for. Frustratingly, the difficulty rockets upward past the introduction. With dozens upon dozens of planets (or multiple stars and orbits) in every direction, most of which are mightier than you, each boost you undertake becomes a complicated maneuver that can either set you back a few sizes or outright end the game. Tricky gravitational pulls, layered rings of rocks, and planet-sucking rogue stars to contend with are simultaneously impressive to work with and incredibly daunting to witness.

That said, it’s still too limited to draw you in. That’s partially the mechanics (world-swallowing has its charms, though they be fleeting), but mostly it’s the odds that work against you relentlessly. Almost every successful move I made was attributable to luck, impossible to replicate even under the exact same circumstances. This makes for some fun moments and razor-thin misses, but also highlights your seeming lack of control. No amount of skill can help you here. Does that realism reflect the randomness of space and our own existence? Sure does, and it’ll probably kickstart a few metaphysical chats the next time you’re drunk and among friends. Will that same harsh truth lead you to play the game for an extended amount of time? No, likely not.

Only a scientist gets excited by this.

If you’re a strategy nut, appreciate threading an interstellar needle over and over, don’t mind the simplistic visuals but do enjoy a chill soundtrack, Main Sequence might be your bag. If you’re lukewarm on the idea and inherent odds already (probably the vast majority), there’s nothing to see here that you can’t find elsewhere, and in a more stylish and involving package. Boot up a Katamari game if you have one.

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2 thoughts on “REVIEW: Main Sequence”

    1. So far as the idea of growing and absorbing smaller objects / planets, yeah, I’d say Solar is a pretty good match. Still can’t believe they’re asking $5 for the sequel, though those games are more complex (and fun) than Main Sequence, as they offer actual missions and challenges. Main Sequence has some puzzles and a ticking clock to work against on some stages, but the goal is simply to grow. You don’t gain satellites or fight off any enemies.

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