The very best team-based cooperative games are those which allow individual players to deal with specific gameplay elements, before coming together to ensure that the overall squad is able to be successful. This mechanic has been pretty much nailed in recent years by Team17’s Overcooked series, with both the original game, and the more recent sequel, pushing forward some of the best cooperative experiences yet. Yes, chaos and confusion reign, but that is all part of the fun and the draw.
It is that feeling, whilst mixing in a ‘one more go attitude’, that Catastronauts is trying to get a slice of. Coming from Inertia Game Studios, the similarities between the cooking frenzies of Overcooked and the space themed goings on of Catastronauts are huge. In fact, they are so big that anyone who has dished out a mean meal or two with mates will find that the chance to hop into the boots of an amusing Trekkie-styled space crew will bring nearly as much joy.
That’s not to say that this comically cooperative affair is the best of the genre – for it isn’t – but the journey that you do have will still be a good one, especially should you be able to embrace the fun visual style that unfolds throughout. It is this journey which is played out by seeing your crack squad of space flight crew members taking on an alien species, which is going all out to destroy you. The only way you can fight back is to work as a team. A well polished, well communicating, super fluid team.
Catastronauts is played out over the course of some well defined levels, all of which are playable for either the lone wolf or up to 4 like-minded crew people. The task is a simple one; utilise all the weapons of your intergalactic starfleet in order to shoot down the alien craft you are in battle with – all before they take you out. Now this is obviously not a straightforward process and for you to deal the damage you’ll find yourself and your mates powering up huge blasters, pointing them towards the foes, and hitting the big green fire button. That is Catastronauts in its simplest form, however as each stage passes by new mechanics and ideas come into play.
As you progress, the blasters will suddenly need prepping and charging before they can be fired, nuclear missiles need to be loaded with pre-charged rockets, and ion cannons need to be cooled constantly – all as you keep an eye on your ship’s health levels alongside that of your opponent. But as well as trying to get on the offensive, you’ll also need to defend for your lives, dashing around with fire extinguishers to put out ship fires, and utilising repair kits to ensure the weapons are kept in good nick and that the ship isn’t going to fall apart with the next direct hit taken.
Further levels bring in the need to hide from solar flares and the use of blast doors that create safe areas, whilst airlocks that may be good for putting out fires will need to be safely opened to ensure that crew members don’t get sucked out into the ether. Because when you start to go a man down the fight to overcome the absolute chaos that ensues will no doubt be too much to handle. In a brilliant nod to the Star Trek theme that kicks around in the background, items can be transported – or ‘beamed up’ as I like to call it – from one part of the ship to another, allowing all crew members to get hands on.
There are a good range of new ideas thrown into Catastronauts at every opportunity, and whilst the opening handful of stages may begin to seem like the new additions are constant and overwhelming, they do a great job of allowing you to familiarise yourself with how things work before the tougher stages. And believe me, the difficulty of each round ramps up to a decent degree, testing your group’s skills over and over again.
Giving up isn’t something that can happen, and even though you may all come in to a new stage, just to be blasted to kingdom come within a matter of seconds, once you get a grip on the layout of each ship, and an understanding on the job at hand, it isn’t long before the fluidity of Catastronauts starts to engross the entire crew. Eventually you’ll find the team ethic taking hold and you and your mates running around in unison, helping each other action specific tasks when required, all whilst consistently trying to get the upper hand on those trying to destroy you.
If I’m honest, Catastronauts is a good laugh – at least when you are playing it with local sofa-based friends. See, the communication needed in order for your ship’s crew to successfully blast all alien scum away ensures that any multiplayer gaming that is taken in is great fun; shouting, screaming, and crying – both in response to the good and the bad – will all come about thanks to this game. The problem is, when you try to replicate the whole thing again alone, it just all falls flat.
In fact, even though the first few stages and levels are okay for a solo player to fully embrace, anything further than that sees the mix of frantic action, and constant switching of characters, come across as a bit of a chore. You may well manage to luck your way through to pick up enough stars to unlock levels – literally fire fighting as you go – but without the safety blanket of others beside you, the climb in difficulty is too much for one being alone to bear.
But hey, Catastronauts really doesn’t try to sell itself as a single player game, and even though it is just about possible to do so should you wish, it is the local multiplayer side of things that sees it come across in the best light. Disappointingly, it isn’t possible to head on out into a battle with any mates across the globe and the lack of any online multiplayer opportunities is a big one. However if you can look past that, and have couch co-op friends to hand, then it is probably only the Overcooked series of games that can bring anything better to the table.
That all sees Catastronauts come in to deal a rather nifty little space-themed chaotic cooperative adventure – one which will both bring together, and totally ruin, any friendships at the same time. If you’re after a new game to play with some mates, and couldn’t care less why you are doing it, you could do much worse than check out this cooperative space adventure.