Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: 0Space

I don't think it's even remotely possible for developer Beau Blyth to make a bad game.  Now, you might not have heard about him if you aren't following the indie gaming scene, but with such excellent titles as Action Fist! and Shoot First under his belt, I expected nothing less than sheer wonder from 0Space, his inventive new hotseat multiplayer shooter.  And it's sheer wonder that I recieved.  Sheer gut-coated, zero-gravity wonder.

Though it might not be apparent at first, the "0" in 0Space refers to the fact that the entire concept of gravity is absent.  Gone.  Thrown out the window.  And that's exactly the way I like it.  You can still stick onto/walk on walls, but most of the game is, quite simply, a sort of space-ballet.  At any given time, you can charge up a jump and push yourself into the zero-gravity emptiness of space.  While in zero-gravity, you have just about no control over your character.  In closed-off stages, this sort of thing doesn't prove to be a problem, but in open areas, it pays to think out your jumps before you make them, lest you drift off and become space toast.  Your gun is your most valuable asset in these frightening scenarios.  Shooting it while drifting between surfaces gives you a small boost in the opposite direction.  In some cases, this tactic can save you the match by propelling you back into the play area before you meet your doom.

The game is split into a series of single-kill rounds (the number of which you can determine in the options menu), allowing you at the beginning to select which stage you want to play on for each.  Pretty much standard fare for those familiar with just about any competitive multiplayer game.  The pure creativity put into designing the stages is great.  Never once does it seem like a stage recycles content from another one.  My friend replayed a bunch of stages, and were shocked by how many different ways there were to experience them.  The one thing that was a little bit of a letdown was the small number of stages.  I feel like 0Space would greatly benefit from support for user-created maps, or at least some regularly released map-packs, but for a free game, the selection as it stands is substantial.

If there's anything that stands out in particular about 0Space, it's the extremely sexy style it has going for it.  Blyth makes everything work in tandem to create an action game to trump all others.  While the graphics are pixelated, something I've been getting tired of in indie games, they exhibit a new-age art style that really sets them apart from most "retro" freeware titles I've played.  The sense of impact is another thing I really admire.  The gory explosions, recoil, sword slashes, sound effects and particle effects all go hand in hand to make you feel like you really are an intergalactic badass.  The rounds may only be one kill long, but there's an enormous bit of accomplishment you receive when you shoot or slice your opponent into a million little bloody bits.

For all 0Space has going for it, it isn't without its flaws.  One big gripe I've had is the inability to set parameters for each round.  Limiting the players to one-kill rounds doesn't seem like the smartest design choice.  Giving some sort of option to determine the number of kills beforehand is something I feel 0Space desperately needs.  The replays tend to be a little shaky, too.  Sometimes, you'll play a replay for one level, and it shows you the video but plays the audio from another replay.  Sometimes vice-versa.  Blyth says that it's a known bug, so hopefully it'll get fixed soon.

VERDICT: 0Space is more than worth your time if you have a couple of friends and some time to kill.  It's not the hotseat multiplayer game to end all hotseat multiplayer games, but it's certainly the most fun one I've come across this year.  Eat your heart out, Call of Duty.

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