My wife and I play a lot of co-op video games together, but honestly, the only console we ever seem to use is the Nintendo Wii U. I’ve had two controllers for the Xbox One and PS4 since launch, but unless I have friends over, they never seem to get used. Whether it be Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong County: Tropical Freeze, NintendoLand or Pikmin 3, the Wii U seems to have the lucrative married couple, couch co-op market absolutely sewn up…..well, they did anyway.
Asteroid Base’s recently released, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is not only the first game to draw our combined time away from Mario and co., but it might just be the most fun I have had playing a local multiplayer game since…..I don’t know when. The point is, this game is really, really good. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very enjoyable game when played on your own, but the truth is, this game was made for co-op, and it’s there that the experience truly comes alive.
Others might have been following the progress of, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, but me, I had no idea. This game came out of nowhere and has subsequently turned into one of the most pleasant gaming surprises of the year – it has even managed to keep me away from Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain and Mad Max (and I love Mad Max). It’s a completely different experience to both of those games, but in terms of succeeding in what it set out to do, Asteroid Base’s latest is arguably the equal of either.
The closest thing to it would probably be something like Rare’s, NES classic, Solar Jetman, but really, there is very little out there that is anything like, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. A kind of task management shooter, it asks you to take out enemies with the standard lasers, control the ship, ensure the shields are in the right place and man the larger cannons. Thing is, each of these are controlled by completely separate control panels and require you and your buddy to move around your ship in an attempt to manage the unique requirements of any given situation.
Played as a traditional side on 2D shooter, you and your shipmate will need to move around the ship and work in tandem if you are to have any chance of making it through the games’ four increasingly difficult campaigns. The visuals might well be bright and breezy, but this is a game with a sting in the tail, and whether you be playing in co-op or alone, this is a game with a fair but relatively unforgiving learning curve. It’s not a hard game per se, but it certainly keeps you on your toes despite all the talk of love, hugs and kisses.
And my, isn’t there a lot of love. The heart-shaped, space station, the Ardor Reactor seems like the happiest place in the universe until it is attacked by a bunch of love hating aliens who rip a hole in the galaxy and go around acting like complete dicks. It’s therefore down to the wonderfully named, League Of Very Empathetic Rescue Spacenauts to save the day via the use of their collection of cylindrical (and largely impractical) space ships. Whether it be the vaguely human looking characters, a surprisingly dependable cat or a spacefaring dog, the controls for each are all the same. Movement is basic and fast with the aim to get from one console to the next as quickly as possible. You can control the second character in single player mode via basic commands, and it does work very well (despite the need for you to do most of the flying), but again, this really is at its best when played with a friend, and with no online options of any kind, you really will need that second controller to get the most out of this conceptually charming and mechanically brilliant shooter.
With four stages and an often surprisingly tricky boss battle per each of the four campaigns, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime isn’t the longest game out there, but with different ships to unlock (each with their own unique methods of control), there is certainly additional longevity for those looking for an excuse to return to the game once the credits have rolled. For the price being paid though, I’d argue that the game delivers plenty of content with each of the campaigns offering up their own distinctive set of challenges beyond the simple addition of more, increasingly powerful enemies. Whether it be powerful solar winds, tricky underwater sections or teleporting wormholes, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime does a great job of keeping the game feeling fresh and exciting for as long as the adventure lasts. The mechanics rarely change, but with unlockable gem based abilities, the way you use those fundamental controls will certainly evolve as you progress. Whether it be better shields, stronger cannons or improved lasers, finding the right gem balance based upon your play style certainly adds an additional layer of tactical nous to the extremely strong core mechanics.
The lack of online options is certainly disappointing, and as a single player experience, this is more good than great, but get a friend, partner or, as in my case, a spouse involved, and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime quickly reveals itself to be one of the most imaginative, enjoyable and beautifully designed shooters of modern times. The unique, utterly charming aesthetic certainly plays its part, but ultimately, it’s the fundamental gameplay that makes this game quite as special as it is. The combination of solid shooting mechanics with personnel and task management is inspired, leading to this being one of the most entertaining games that I have played this year and amongst the finest co-op experiences of the generation.
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