Retro-style sci-fi adventure offers up a rich world to explore
The birth of smart devices was accompanied by a renaissance in retro games. This began with second-hand games shops selling SNESs to students, and has developed to a point where games studios are releasing brand-new titles that sparkle in the memories of those who loved RPG games for what they really were – adventures in exploration rather than endless action gunfights.
Space Age is the follow-up to Big Bucket Software’s 2010 platformer The Incident, but this time around they’ve swapped out the platforms for a much more maneuverable space setting. This role-playing puzzle game is quite a step forward from the previous effort and sees sweeping developments in both sound-design and scripting.
Space Age has an interesting premise – while it’s set in space and features a group of cosmic adventurers from Earth exploring the seemingly uninhabited planet of Kepler-16, the year is actually 1976. In this alternate past you take charge of different members of the crew, from engineers to science officers. Each one has his or her own personality, as demonstrated by some great scripting. The humor is dry and self-deprecating – perfect for a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The story unfolds as the team realizes it may not be alone on Kepler-16. The back stories for the planet and its inhabitants, as well as your galactic explorers, are slowly revealed in cut scenes and through various puzzles that flow throughout both the main gameplay and these cutaways.
The gameplay itself is quite tricky. We played Space Age on an iPhone 6 Plus, but even at that screen size we had to hold it close up to really see what was going on. It’s certainly playable on an iPhone, but if you own an iPad as well you’re better off playing on the bigger device. The puzzles are pretty simple, generally requiring you to explore the surrounding area or interact with an object. These are usually obscured by a black fog, which indicates the areas you haven’t yet investigated. As you wander around, more of the area becomes visible and you’ll be able to locate objects that were previously obscured.
A lot of the time Space Age expects you to simply sit back and enjoy the story. While this sometimes feels a little passive, at other times you’ll become frustrated with the “action,” which often involves trying to access areas without being shot. This can be both frustrating and time-consuming, especially as the areas and your allotted time increase as you keep playing. However, it’s not just a case of hammering away until you get it right – sometimes you need to call on other characters to help, or send in the heavies to dispatch your enemies, which does make these points in the game more interesting.
Space Age is a wonderful game with a lot going for it. The main soundtrack is retro but nuanced, and each cut-scene has its own soundtrack that really pulls you into the game. It looks great too – proper retro RPG-styled, the characters walk in a jagged fashion, and when they talk their whole head moves. There’s also a huge world to explore. However, it’s lacking when it comes to the controls. You move the characters by tapping on the screen in the location you want them to go, but it’s not always easy to sneak past some nefarious folk, and the character you’re controlling may choose a different way to the destination that lands you in hot water. Over time you learn to anticipate this, but it feels more more like a flaw in the game than a skill the developers intended you to acquire.
If you want intricate puzzles and satisfying challenges then there may not be enough in Space Age to keep you hooked. However, if story-led narratives and RPG games are up your street then give Space Age a shot – it won’t disappoint.
Size: 76.3 MB
Developer: Big Bucket Software
Platform: iOS Universal