I’m surrounded on all sides.
The alien forces of Anti-Love have swarmed on my position in the remote reaches of space outside of the Cetus constellation. Above me, a huge armored insect is ready to strike at any moment. A creature of this size could do some massive damage to my ship if it were to connect with any of its attacks. The only way to neutralize this big bug is to zap it with the ship’s energy shield; that’ll expose its weak spot and allow me to fire on it from one of the craft’s onboard turrets. To my left, there’s a swarm of fish-like aliens who like to attack in packs. It’ll require some quick sharpshooting in order to terminate these pesky pests. Below me and to my right, robotic insect tanks patrol the nearby asteroids, ready to unleash a missile shower as soon as I’m in range. Oh, and a group of cyborg, fly-like aliens have spotted me nearby and are making a beeline for my position. With no clear escape route, I’m going to have to engage the aliens it seems. I’ve got some tough decisions to make, but I’m glad I’m not alone; my pet companion, Doppler — who doubles as a super-smart astronaut and reliable co-pilot — is right beside me and awaiting my orders.
Title: Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime
Developer: Asteroid Base (@AsteroidBase)
Platforms: PS4(Reviewed)/Xbox One/PC
What do I do? Do I man the shield station and focus on taking out the big guy first? I can expose its weak spot while Doppler mans the northern turret and fires on the behemoth bug. The smaller enemies are quick though, and so are their attacks; neglecting them could put unnecessary stress on the ship’s defenses. If I let Doppler control the shield, he can focus on warding off the big baddie while I run around the ship and utilize the various weapon posts to attack the pint-sized aliens first. Their strength lies strictly in their numbers, so it would behoove me to eliminate that strength as quickly as possible. Or maybe I just need to “make” an escape path? The enemy forces are converging on my position at an almost overwhelming rate, and it might make more sense to try and flee to safety. I can send Doppler to the craft’s strongest turret, position the shield in front of the ship, and hop into the cockpit in the hopes of barreling through the enemy forces to some semblance of a safe haven northwest of my current location. Whatever I decide, I’ve got to do it quick. The forces of Anti-Love are relentless in their pursuit of Love’s destruction. I’ve got space bunnies to save, and the universe is depending on me to make the right decision.
Welcome to the world of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime! Love-hating alien bugs are spreading their brand of hate across the once utopian universe, and it’s up to you to track down the adorable space bunnies spread across the cosmos in order to restore space and time to its previously amorous state. Don’t let the game world’s cuddly characters and colorful looks fool you, though; it’s a hazardous place full of challenge and peril in every nook and rocky cranny. The situation I’ve outlined above is not uncommon in developer Asteroid Base’s quirky, space shooter/bunny-saving/shuttle management-sim. That said, the strategic aspect of Lovers initially caught me off-guard. I hadn’t played Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime on either the Xbox One or PC prior to its release on PlayStation, so I hopped into the PS4 version of the game fresh and naïve to its underlying complexities. I expected more “pew-pew” and less “think-think.” Not in a bad way, mind you; the moment-to-moment strategy is actually the game’s most compelling feature.
Your spacecraft is divided into 8 stations: four turrets used to attack enemies, a navigation station for piloting the ship, a map used to view the level, a shield station which controls where your protective barrier is located around the perimeter of your ship, and the ultra-powerful Yamato cannon, a destructive weapon capable of inflicting massive amounts of damage. It’s up to you to decide which station to man at any given time and, as commander of the ship, it’s also your responsibility to direct your co-pilot where needed. Your co-pilot can be controlled by the game’s A.I. — which is very good — or by another human player (more on this in a little bit). I didn’t have a co-op companion readily available when playing through the game, so I spent the majority of my time playing alone with an A.I. companion. While managing all of my spaceship’s stations solo was daunting and overwhelming at first, I eventually settled into a groove and started to maneuver my spacecraft through treacherous terrain with efficiency — and even a dash of panache. I started to really enjoy the split-second decision-making that permeates each level. Who do I shoot first? Which path is the most efficient route to collect all of the space bunnies? Which station do I upgrade first? The game essentially evolves into a constant game of shoot-em-up-chess once you understand how everything works.
Speaking of upgrades, the game’s strategy aspect is even more pronounced once Lovers’ gem system comes into play. While collecting space bunnies and ranking up allows you to modify your ship and unlock new crafts as you progress through the game, the real meat-and-potatoes decision-making comes when presented with one of the upgrade gems you come across during your travels. Upgrade gems come in power, beam, and metal varieties, and they’re used to augment your spaceship’s various stations. Want more umph out of that turret on the eastern side of the ship? Slap a power gem on it and watch the firepower double. Wish your shield did more damage to enemies? Pop a metal gem into its upgrade slot and ram into enemies to your heart’s content. Make sure and choose wisely where you place these gems, though; once set, they’re locked in place until you complete one of the game’s four worlds or pick up a wrench item. You’ll eventually unlock additional upgrade slots for each of your ship’s stations, and this allows you to mix-and-match gems in a variety of combinations. I had a blast experimenting with all of the different possible pairings. Throw a metal and power gem onto one of your spaceship’s gun turrets and watch the magic happen. The gem system is such a simple and straightforward mechanic, but it adds a ton of depth and strategy to the game. It’s a well-designed system and it’s easy for players to pick up and understand.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a beautiful title, by the way. Its colorful environments, clean lines, and cartoony look provide an aesthetic that perfectly matches the vibe the game is going for. It’s got a very Pixeljunk-feel in terms of its graphics and style and, as a huge fan of that line of games, that’s one of the highest compliments I can pay Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. The game’s soundtrack also deserves a special shout-out. Composer Ryan Henwood’s pulsing electronic score is at once both hypnotic and soothing, and it wasn’t altogether uncommon for me to just park my ship and take in whatever track was playing during my time with the title. Soundtrack fans should definitely scope this one out on Bandcamp or iTunes.
As I mentioned earlier, I primarily played through Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime all by my lonesome. You may be thinking, “But Ben, this game was created with cooperative play in mind. Why are you playing through this by yourself?” Well, faithful reader, that’s a great question. While I would have loved to have played through this game in its entirety cooperatively, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime does not support online co-op! At this stage of my life — I’ve got a job, family, and a wealth of un-fun adult things to worry about — it’s extremely difficult to get together with friends and colleagues side-by-side on a couch to play video games. In a game like this, built specifically for and designed with cooperative play in mind, I would have liked to have seen online co-op play as an option. The game can be really difficult and stressful during some of the later stages when playing alone, and it’s easy to get frustrated when you’re dying over and over again because the enemies are overwhelming you and it doesn’t seem like there’s enough of you to go around when trying to manage the ship. I’m not a game designer, and I don’t claim to be one, but there just seems like there should be some kind of way in this modern, connected gaming world we live in to implement online play into this title. Thankfully, the PlayStation 4’s Share Play feature allows gamers to connect with one another via the internet to play previously local co-op only games together. While sessions are limited to one hour at a time, there is no limit to how many Share Play sessions you can play. I tested the feature out with my partner in crime, Brent, and can confirm that the game is both insanely awesome with two players, and that Share Play works wonderfully with the title. Our play session(s) went off without a hitch and, after we were finished, I was once again left lamenting the fact that there wasn’t a proper online multiplayer element to this game. Maybe in a future patch, Asteroid Base?
There is way more to Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime than I originally thought. It’s got an underlying depth I didn’t expect, and it’s far more challenging than its cartoony look would lead you to believe. It’s a pretty substantial experience as well; if attempting to collect all of the space bunnies in each of the game’s levels, this is easily an 8-hour experience. While the lack of online co-op play is a definite bummer — and will drive many solo players to the brink of frustration — the game is still incredibly fun when playing alone. To those that have a co-op partner on standby and ready to go, this is a no-brainer purchase. It’s a unique title that’s full of character, and it’s one of the best co-op experiences around.
This game was reviewed with a code generously provided to us by developer Asteroid Base.
Ben is a lifelong gamer and a hardcore PlayStation fan. He hopes to actually finish a game in 2016. Follow him not-tweeting @piccolo930.
- A fun mix of strategy, shooting, and ship management
- Beautiful aesthetic
- Rocking electronic soundtrack
- A great two-player cooperative experience
- Couch co-op only
- Can be frustrating and stressful at times, especially when playing solo