You’ve pretty much played this game already when you were 15 or so and learning to drive.

Wrestling with a bunch of new controls while hurtling down the street inside of a deadly vehicle, fiddling with the radio, avoiding the cops and trying not to crash into things. Yeah, it really takes you back. Of course you won’t exactly be doing much hurtling here; but more on that later.

The first thing you ought to know is that this is really a game in two interleaved parts, only one of which is any good.

The good part, not surprisingly, is the one we all came here for. It’s kind of like The Room on a ship: turning dials, flipping switches and pulling levers in the process of solving one big hands-on mechanical puzzle.

Here’s what you have to work with

At the beginning it’s more a matter of trial and error than logic. It’s basically, Hey, What’s This Button: the Game. Press enough of them, and pretty soon the machine comes to life and you gradually begin to figure out what it does and how to move around without killing yourself.

Mastering the operation of your weird submersible turns out to be pretty satisfying, even if you might wish there was a little more to the controls. Creating a puzzle like this is probably a tough balancing act, though. You need to make it intuitive enough to figure out without them leading you by the hand yet deep enough to be consistently engaging.

Alll the screenshots pretty much look like this

They do a good job of keeping things interesting early on, but once you’re on the move you settle into a routine that carries you through most of the rest of the game. I think that’s a nice way of saying that it gets extremely repetitive.

With that kind of setup, you’d think the focus would be on exploration and discovery. You’d roam around the ocean floor, encountering new challenges and dealing with various crises that that pop up and force you to adapt.

While that does happen to some extent, most of your effort is wrapped up in the single dubious issue of power management. They weren’t kidding about the “crawl” part, though.

Without spoiling things too much, you spend most of the game slowly poking around the randomly-generated map in search of certain objectives while trying to evade detection, and the whole time you’re keeping keeping one eye on the battery in order to avoid over-draining it. It’s like that scene in Apollo 13 where they have to turn on everything in the spacecraft without frying it.

I think the biggest problem there is that the best approach involves gaming the system in a way that’s not fun and totally breaks the immersion. It’s not long before you figure out that all you need to do to avoid the power problem turn certain systems on and off, on and off, on and off until you never want to see another switch again.

After all the trouble you went through to learn the controls, piloting your little sub ought to feel natural and rewarding, but it turns out to be this tedious juggling act. Sure, there are a few hazards that crop up along the way, a weapon system that eventually plays a role, and a couple of parts that break up the map; but before you know it, it’s right back to the grind.

On, off, on, off, on, off…

Yeah, you go through all that trouble learning to drive, but there aren’t many places you can actually go. It really is like being 16 again.

All that’s missing is my dad yelling at me from the passenger seat. Well, maybe in the dlc.

Developer: Space Parts Oasis

Publisher: Armor Games Studios

Purchased on: Steam

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