When Asteroid Base first showed off their ID@Xbox offering, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime Achievements, at E3 last year, it was a little hard to know what to expect from the title. What we did learn at the time was that it was intended for two people, both of whom would be tasked with steering a ship to safety while somehow figuring out how to man its turrets, engine, and shields. What we know now is that the game centers around the heart-shaped, love-powered space station, the Ardor Reactor. The reactor has always been protected by the "League Of Very Empathetic Rescue Spacenauts", or the titular "lovers". Unfortunately, anti-love appeared and ripped the reactor into four pieces, scattering them across spacetime. Now, the Lovers have to work together to recover the Ardor Reactor pieces and re-establish the force of love.
In Lovers, the player and their companion, human or otherwise, have to pilot their ship in an effort to find the scattered pieces of the ardor reactor and rescue their captured space buddies. There are seven stations total - the engine, which controls movement, a shield that can be maneuvered to cover a portion of the ship, four turrets, and the Yamato weapon, which is a special weapon that circles the ship and takes time to recharge between shots. There is also a map in the ship that can be accessed. The map is initially mostly obscured but becomes more visible through exploration. While attempting to rescue the space critics, players will encounter boxes that grant either health, an indicator on the map for where one of those needing rescue is located, or presents that contain gems. Gems come in three varieties - power, laser, and metal - and can be attached to any of the ship's stations excepting the map. Initially, each station can only hold one gem, but with upgrades, they can hold two. Mixing and matching leads to different powers, so it's worth it to try the combinations as it keeps the gameplay fresh. Every time a new campaign is started, the ship is reset, so there are plenty of opportunities to discover preferred combos.
The level design throughout the game is top-notch. Each of the game's campaigns, of which there are four, contains five levels. The first four are generally exploration-based levels while the fifth is always a boss fight. The bosses are all unique and require different strategies, which is another way in which the gameplay is kept varied. The different campaigns will have different themes as well, such as one campaign that features watery areas that must be traversed or snowy areas with heavy winds that will push the ship along if its engine isn't actively working to keep the ship moving.
Each level mandates rescuing five of the aforementioned space buddies so that the warp to the next area can be opened, but an additional five creatures are also captured throughout and awaiting their savior. Not only does each rescued friend reward you with a little health boost, but collecting them is integral to powering up the ship's stations and to opening new ships, as well. While the collectible total per level is ten, two or three will often be grouped together, so grabbing them all isn't too difficult. None of the space friends are tucked away in a particularly hard to find space either, making it more a matter of patience to collect them all than one of being thorough.
As Asteroid Base noted right from the outset, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is intended to be a co-op experience, and that's where the game really shines. When playing single player, the player is teamed with an AI of their choosing. The AI can be assigned to sit at any of the ship's stations by pressing Y and pointing at where they should go. For the most part, it's easy to set the AI at one point, the shields for example, and then just take control of all the other stations but this leads to a lot of start-and-stop gameplay that actually hurts the experience. The AI also can't pilot the ship, meaning the player has to be responsible for either movement on defense or movement and attack. When playing with a partner, however, the gameplay moves faster as the player can (hopefully) trust their companion to move easily from station to station, keeping the game moving and ridding it of that start-and-stop feeling. While there is nothing technically wrong with the single player experience - it still looks fine and handles well - it really is necessary to go through the game with a buddy to get what the developers intended the game to play like.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime includes 28 achievements, five of which are available for completing the tutorial and the game's four campaigns. Two other achievements are tied to playing with a friend or playing with a second player. There is one collectibles related achievement for finding all of the space friends that, as of this writing, has yet to be unlocked. The list is a solid one in that it not only rewards progression through the title, but also challenges players to attempt new gameplay tactics. For example, there is an achievement for accomplishing a specific task during each boss fight, and others for interacting with or avoiding your companion. All in all, pending that final achievement being popped, the list seems highly doable, and has the right mix of gimmes and achievements that will challenge the player fairly and reward their efforts.
SummaryHere's the deal with Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: As a single-player experience, the game drags. While your AI companion is actually helpful and surprisingly competent, having to man the ship on your own is a cumbersome and sometimes boring experience. The game takes on a whole different spin when a second person is involved, becoming a rewarding romp where players can celebrate successfully completing their shared goals. As a game meant for a couch co-op experience, it checks the right boxes and then-some as the two of you work to replace the anti-love in the room with something more positive, like love or perhaps a high-five. If playing on your own is the way you tend to roll, however, you'll still enjoy the game's presentation, but the luster of what moves this game from good to great territory will sadly not be present.
- Bright, colorful presentation
- Excellent co-op design
- Variety of ships and upgrades
- Slow single-player experience
EthicsThe reviewer spent approximately seven hours floating through space rescuing space critters, mostly with an AI companion, while earning 13 of the game's 28 achievements. A digital copy of the game was provided for review by the publisher.
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