Both from a visual and a purely mechanical standpoint, there’s nothing new to see in the bland-sounding Space Battle1 ($1.00); it’s an amalgam of every twin-stick shooter set in space that you’ve ever played2. And not necessarily the good parts of said shooters either. Developer Chris Antoni’s take on the genre feels more ‘me too’-ish than anything else, and the dour, spartan backgrounds do little to help matters. On the surface, it’s entirely predictable.
The offline action takes place over sixteen challenging— albeit same-y— solo levels. The initial stages one-up themselves, adding a new enemy type until eventually you’re fighting off hordes of every type. It gets hectic. Unfortunately, it never feels all that thrilling. You get the standard ship upgrades, granting you additional shots or boosting your movement. You get a powerup that freezes enemies in place. And that’s about it. Even the overused, gimmicky, ‘bullet time’-esque slowdown that occasionally triggers when you’re near enemies or dodging laser fire can be more trouble than it’s worth, suddenly disorienting you and limiting your view.
Still, the game’s ‘Online War’ mode offers up a few interesting wrinkles to try and offset the rest of the otherwise familiar package. Rather than make things just a one-on-one duel, Space Battle mixes together parts of RPG-style progress grinding and card deck building, letting you put together an armada of ships (culled from the game’s single-player enemies) and purchase additional card slots and upgrades with currency earned through winning fights. The game allows you to tweak said loudouts beforehand, then sets you loose in a galaxy hub screen and offers up to 31 players online3 to match decks with and battle against.
In theory, this should make for exciting combinations and battles, but your options are limited to a handful of choices and upgrades. Essentially, it boils down to picking the upper tier cards (earned randomly from wins) and maxing out your own ship’s stats. Building an impressive deck is slow, too. The cost to buy additional slots is high, making the process more of a grind than it needs to be, and with hardly anyone around playing XBLIGs online (a side effect of a dying scene), you’ll have to make do with the A.I. more often than not.
All in all, though, it just feels like a retread of past twin-stick shooters. And that’s not the vibe you want your game to be saddled with. Despite the interesting idea behind the online play (an idea you likely won’t get to appreciate in its intended form), Space Battle looks and plays too generic everywhere else to hold your interest for long.
- Seriously, Chris, I enjoy your games, buddy, but you’ve got to think of a better title than Space Battle for the next one. Literally anything would be better. Eyeballs in Space, maybe, or Chuck’s Fantastic Space Adventure. I mean, I don’t know what somebody named Chuck has to do with it, but you get the idea. Something else. ↩
- And if you’ve played a decent amount of XBLIGs over the years, you know that ‘twin-stick shooter set in space’ is a rather common idea amongst indie developers. I guess it’s a rite of passage. ↩
- Wishful thinking. I never found a single soul to do battle against. ↩