Not too long ago endless running games were all the rage, especially in the mobile space.
In 2018 however the genre appears to have mostly dried up. Deep Space is Bug Studios’ latest attempt at recapturing the endless running magic. This is a procedurally generated affair, rather than the usual level based games you tend to find in the genre. Is this port of the mobile version worthy of your time and money?
There is basically no plot here: you start the game as a space marine type character on a small space craft that consists of four walls and a shop. Your space craft is parked next to what looks like an abandoned spaceship, but you’ll very soon find out that it’s all but abandoned. As you progress into the spaceship you soon come across various enemies that come at you from all angles, as well as traps set to test your platforming mettle.
Instead of stages, Deep Space closes walls behind you every so often to stop you going too far backwards, but other than that you are actually free to move in which ever direction you like. You’ll need to be found moving forward pretty quickly though if you want to make any sort of progress. The reason for this is that the place quickly ends up swarming with enemies and traps, and it takes a really deft touch to navigate through this.
The difficulty here is high, probably too high as you constantly find yourself dead within a minute of arriving. It’s consistently frustrating and hampered all the more by some really poor controls; very simply put, you’re given a double jump and a gun. The gun is upgradable but still takes too many shots to knock any enemy down, and the double jump is one of the most imprecise I have ever come across. Sometimes the button press just isn’t registered and that’s not good as you find yourself constantly having to jump really precisely between traps, while fending off enemies that swarm at you. More often than not you just end up either landing on the trap or in the arms of an enemy. This is hampered all the more by the fact that some enemies come at you so quickly that you can barely react. I can see that this is intended to add a sense of urgency to proceedings, but it ends up just producing death after death until you get bored or too frustrated to continue.
As you delve ever deeper into the ship, enemies begin to take on new and slightly more strategic forms; some will gum up the floor and surrounding traps in a slippery goo that requires some incredible timing to get across. Others meanwhile can blow whole sections of the floor away. Sometimes you can use these enemies to ease your traversal of the area ahead by destroying or disabling traps and other enemies in the area, but again it requires a serious amount of skill to pull these moves off. I also noticed that when the game closes up a wall behind you the performance becomes incredibly choppy for a few seconds. As you can imagine, this can have a real impact if you are in the middle of trying to make a precise jump, seeing Deep Space come across as really unfair at times.
This is where the shop should come in handy. Here you can upgrade health and guns, as well as picking up power ups to aid your journey. These range from laser weapons to items that can safely encase more difficult enemies in bubbles to make passage much safer. These secondary weapons and items will spawn randomly in the game and will certainly help in hitting the strategic sweet spot, but because of the random nature you just cannot rely on them when you need them. Actually, the most beneficial thing you can do with the shop is to just upgrade health and the standard gun.
Looks wise and it’s all a pretty simple affair with blocky environments, bright colours and some basic character design. You will find that you’ve pretty much seen everything the game has to offer pretty quickly and it soon becomes a bit boring to look at when you find yourself running down the same corridor you’ve seen a hundred times before. Sound-wise and it is also uncomplicated with the exception of the excellent title screen music that is suitably pumping from the get go.
In summary, Deep Space has some interesting ideas and if it had been given the time and budget to flesh out, I imagine it could have been a much better game. Instead what we get is a very repetitive and unfair experience that very quickly becomes tiresome. That’s all well and good if you just need five minutes distraction, but frankly I would say the mobile version is probably better for this intent.