The premise of Deep Space Rush, developed by BUG-Studio and published by Ratalaika Games, is set around saving a space station from a viral contamination; it is this which involves guiding a pixelated spaceman through endless zones, collecting coins, avoiding monsters and picking up weapons. And to accompany the retro style, the music plays out as an enjoyable and synthesised old-school chip-tune soundtrack
Deep Space Rush is a rogue-lite styled game in that when you die you can spend the coins you have collected on new equipment and weapons, all ready for your next attempt. This includes the staples of videogame mechanics such as extra health, weapon upgrades and coin upgrades.
Apart from the whole space virus contamination situation there isn’t really all that much in terms of story. You start off on your pretty basic ship and jump onto the space station to enjoy a randomly generated level, proceeding left or right, killing everything in sight, picking up coins and jumping over traps as you go. That is all you do in Deep Space Rush, but thankfully each level will be different, and these themselves are split up into smaller sections where a wall appears behind you once you reach a certain point. These are coloured so you know you’ll be reaching the end of a section when you see a change in colour – from there it’s fingers crossed that you survive. You continue on until you die, after which you’ll find yourself restarting via a newly generated level. Your coins transfer over and so do your upgrades, so – at least in theory – you should survive just a little longer each time you play.
Enemies and traps are reasonably varied with different variations of zombies that will try and inconvenience you along the way. There’s the red zombie who helpfully blows holes in the scenery and floor – I say helpfully but what I mean is it’s a royal pain in the bum. It took me half an hour of leaping around to figure out that I had to actually fall in the hole in the floor to get rewarded a large number of bonus coins to spend in the store to upgrade my gun. There are caterpillar like creatures who can fall from the ceiling and grab your face like a face-hugger from Aliens, and other similar enemies hide inside traps, or explode in a sticky green substance. In terms of traps there are your standard spikes that come out of the ground and lasers in different forms. It’s a decent selection of enemies and traps which get more varied the longer you play. Parts of the station can be destroyed too, so if you fall off into space you die, but get awarded with coins.
Like all Ratalaika games the achievements come thick and fast, awarded for everything from number of zones passed to the amount of monsters annihilated. Don’t get me wrong, Deep Space Rush isn’t an involved game, and beyond learning what each gun or different colour coin upgrade does, there really isn’t anything more to learn. There aren’t any story elements at all, any varying biomes or enemy types beyond the same basic ones. In fact, the only reason to really continue to play beyond a casual level is to collect the achievements. Within an hour or so, you’ll have nearly all of those too, with little motivation to continue.
That’s the main issue with Deep Space Rush – once those achievements and Gamerscore are mopped up, what really is left to do? There’s no open world to explore and I don’t see anyone becoming addicted to Deep Space Rush enough to wish to plough hours into speedruns or anything like that; it’s literally a one run wonder and after a short learning curve any and all players will have mastered the core elements of Deep Space Rush. The only thing I found myself really puzzled about was the weapon levelling system. After paying coins to add a +1 to any weapon, the weapon would then be on the floor in the next room waiting for me. Does it mean my weapon has been levelled up to do more damage, or does it mean I get an additional weapon on the floor of the space station? I don’t know, and even by playing through I was left confused.
At the end of the day Deep Space Rush on Xbox One is a fun little side-scroller to waste a couple of hours on before the magic wears off and other games start to tempt you back in. It is enjoyable without ever getting too deep and it’s this lack of progression that keeps the game from ever really blossoming, unlike some of the previous Ratalaika published games such as Himno and Mekabolt.