PAX and all of its spinoffs has become known as a safe haven for indie developers to show off their latest video games to the adoring public that attends the massive trade show each year. The Indie Megabooth is one of the greatest venues at PAX, which was again the case at this year’s PAX Prime in Seattle. At times the Indie area of the Seattle Convention Center was more crowded than the AAA booths scattered across the show floor, and that’s because of the traction and allure that indie devs and their games have brought to the video game space over the past five years or so.
One of the indie gems that I had a chance to check out is from Asteroid Base, which is a small three man studio out of Toronto, Canada. Jamie Tucker, one of the developers from Asteroid Base, took me on a personal tour of the studio’s first major release, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, which is a charming arcade style title that mixes platforming and shooter gameplay masterfully. The name is ultra radical as well, epic really, which is probably why this indie game has stuck with me since playing it at PAX Prime 2014.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime not only features a fantastic name, but its gameplay is also quite unique and very addicting. The game features local co-op to take advantage of the core gameplay mechanic that challenges two players to work together in a single spaceship by sharing control of the ship’s engines, guns, lasers, and shields. Each player controls a pixelated space traveler within a Death Star shaped spaceship that has various control boxes scattered throughout its innards, which need to be manned by one of the two players to either fend off enemy attacks, or to reposition the ship by firing up the engine. To reach these controls the players must run and jump their way through the ship’s interior, which is separated by various walls and crevices making traversal a test of your platforming skills. While you and your partner move about the ship to fire its guns, lasers, shields, or engines, a litany of neon colored spaceships are constantly attacking, so to be successful, you and your partner must work together with a symphony of running, jumping, shooting, flying, and defending maneuvers for any chance of victory. This setup forms a tight bond between players, and forces you to work together for any chance of success, which is why Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is such a memorable and fun-to-play indie title.
During my playthrough Jamie and I picked a ship design that would further encourage the game’s teamwork aspect, because it had an impenetrable door separating the two sides of the circle-shaped ship, so neither of us could cross to the other player’s side of the ship. This made things interesting because the enemy ships attack from all sides of your spacecraft, so if bad guys were attacking the right side of the ship Jamie would have to leave whatever he was doing, be it defending with the ship’s shields, or driving with the ship’s engine, to man the turret closest to the attackers. While Jamie would be on offense I could take over flying the ship, which is controlled with the thumbstick, to navigate past environmental hazards, and to guide us towards our objective, which typically revolved around saving cute little animals like bunnies from alien imprisonment. At all times we would have to communicate, or at least pay attention to what was happening on both sides of the ship so we could coordinate our attacks and maneuvers en route to the level’s boss.
Speaking of which, Lovers does feature a plethora of boss fights, and each boss is modeled after a constellation to fully embrace the space setting of the title. During boss fights working together is even more paramount than the standard gameplay as the boss we encountered slithered its way up, down, and all around our circular designed ship, so we had to constantly rotate between driving the ship to avoid his attacks, and getting on a turret to whittle down his health meter.
The gameplay in Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is highly memorable due to its fluidity and tight controls, plus the co-op dynamic is baked into the core design, so playing the game is an absolute blast, but looking at it may even be better. The 2D flat art style is very iconic, and the use of neon colors really helps to give Lovers a distinct vibrant style that will resonate in your mind. It’s not often that you’ll see bright pinks, greens, and purples in a space game, but that is why this indie title sticks out so well. The pixelated art adds a level of charm to this title that AAA games just can’t muster, and it will suck you in just like the highly entertaining gameplay. The levels are all unique looking, and the bosses sport some of the most impressive designs in the game. Lovers is definitely a piece of art that just so happens to be playable.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is being developed for PC, Mac, and the Xbox One, and it could easily be counted among the best indie titles for the Xbox One when it releases. It’s that much fun, and it has the power to make you not forget about it after you’re done playing. The focus on teamwork is a core part of this game and is reflected in the design of the spaceship, as well as the frenetic gameplay. There’s no doubt that this title will provide excitement for you and some friends during a game night revolving around the Xbox One or a compatible PC. It makes you feel like you’re Luke or Han during their escape from the Death Star in A New Hope when they scurry off to their respective turrets on the Millennium Falcon, which according to Tucker, was done on purpose as that scene is actual inspiration for the game’s design.
At this time a firm release date has yet to be announced, but Jamie and the team at Asteroid Base hope to get Lovers to the public sooner than later. It will launch for the Xbox One and PC platforms simultaneously, so when we hear more we will surely update the gaming public with relevant information. For the time being check out a gameplay trailer for Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime below to see it in action.
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