It’s been a while since I’ve even thought about dusting off my tower defence skills on anything bigger than my phone, but Space Run did get pique my interest when it came in for review. The chances are that if you have a penchant for tower defence, a somewhat faded style of game, it has to be said, then this title might be the one to pull you back into the genre.
I’m still not entirely sure about Space Run. On the one hand, it does just about enough to take your mind away from the realisation that you’re playing a tower defence title, but on the other, it’s very much held back by the limitations of the genre. I do get the feeling that stepping away from the standard tropes of tower defence games would have elevated Space Run from being a good game to being a great one.
For those that haven’t seen it yet, Space Run puts you in command of a freighter-cum-warship piloted by the super-manly pilot man, Buck Mann and his Android buddy, who relentlessly deliver dubious quality comedy throughout the game. You start every mission with a payload of cargo, such as passengers, toxic waste or high-tech super computers, and attempt to beat times for more rewards, which subsequently allow you to buy and upgrade more gear in the engineering shop.
The core of the gameplay requires you to work around the limitations of your ship and the gear you have to play with in order to take as little damage as possible, while getting to the end as quickly as possible. As the strapline says, it’s all about getting there safe and fast. As the run progresses, and you take out enemy ships along the way, you earn hex nuts. These then allow you to use special powers and add more weapons, shields and thrusters to your rig. On occasion you’ll fight pirate bosses who grapple your ship and swing around it, all the while piling on the damage from a fearsome array of equipment. Get to the end with your load intact and a ‘lightspeed’ rating, and you earn top points. A much harder task than you might imagine.
There’s not much room for error in Space Run. This is probably my biggest gripe throughout the entire game. You’re given very little room for manoeuvre when it comes to placing your towers. I feel this is one of the main drawbacks of the genre, and not something unique to Space Run. Tower defence is, in essence, a puzzle genre, and one that requires a decent amount of replaying to get right. However, with the story-driven nature of the game, it doesn’t work overly well. A more sensible approach would have been to remove the half-baked puzzle mechanics, such as star ratings, reputation and the restraints of the set up, and replace it with something more substantial.
Another issue that rears its ugly head is the production system used during the levels themselves. It always seems to run the same way. The hexagonal nature of your ship means that there are distinct limitations to how you can set up your freighter, especially once you start making decisions about the larger pieces of equipment. This only becomes an issue toward the end of the levels, when you’re hoarding thousands of hex nuts, but don’t have anything to do with them. On occasion it can feel somewhat frustrating to be so starved of cash at the beginning of levels, yet have so much going to waste at the end.
In spite of its failings, Space Run is still a very playable title, and one that will give you a significant amount of fun through its dozen or so hours or play. My issue is far more to do with its lost potential, rather than any real problem I have with the mechanics. It’s solid throughout, and is likely to be the only tower defence title I play for some time, which I guess is a strong accolade. In short, with an absence of any real de-facto title in the genre, Space Run is well worth looking into.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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