The lure of a twin stick shooter is sometimes too much to turn down, drawing me in with the opportunity of fast paced destruction and the chance to climb numerous worldwide leaderboards, besting my friends scores in the process.
So when I heard that In Space We Brawl was the latest twin sticker to arrive on the Xbox One Games Store I just had to have a look – especially with it coming in the guise of a Full Arsenal Edition.
I’m now regretting that decision…but it’s not only because there isn’t a leaderboard in sight!
In Space We Brawl is nothing more than a local co-op twin stick shooter in which you battle it out with a few friends across something that the developer classes as ‘fast paced space battles’. Granted, the action takes place in space, but it’s not exactly what I call fast paced. Slow, considerate and frustrating is more in keeping with the facts.
The main meat and drink of brawling in space focuses around the Arena mode. This is where you get to fight it out with a few friends (and AI bots if you can’t find enough volunteers) until there is one last man standing. Whether you play for points in the Championship mode, for a specific number of matches across the game’s Tournament section or until you give up on life, time or both in Gladiator, everything plays out much the same. Unfortunately, no matter which of the three options you choose to get involved in, you’ll find the same old basic gameplay throughout – find a friend, grab a ship, hit a map and fly around aimlessly hoping that your weapon deals enough damage in order for you to turn out the victor. Of course, if you’re stuck with the very first requirement, then the included AI bots coming in various skill levels will just about satisfy your needs. Don’t bother attempting the ‘madness’ setting though – that’s a place only the very skilled should venture to.
There are no screen limits in In Space We Brawl, instead you’ll be seeing your ship, and your bullets, fly from one side to the other with ease. It does allow for a slight form of tactical nous to hit home, catching your opponents unaware as you fire from one side of your TV screen and seeing your bullets appear on the other, but on a personal level, I’d much prefer these space fights to occur in a confined space, with predefined parameters, perhaps even with rubber bullets that could bounce off the sides. Thankfully, the inclusion of ship shields, boosts and the opportunity to grab a few power ups allow for a decent chance of survival. As long as you remember to use them of course.
The various brawl locations in which all this dogfighting takes place are quite interesting but ultimately, much like the actual game modes, the vast majority play out very similar. Whether you’re flying through a space junkyard, dodging explosive asteroids or trying to avoid floating alien nests whilst you spiral through space, it won’t be long before you begin to ignore any environmental obstacle as you pray to the gods that your latest attack will find its intended target.
One thing, in fact, quite probably the only thing really enjoyable with In Space are the numerous ship and weapon combos in place. The choices are near on endless as you get the opportunity to take a fast, but unshielded ship into the fight, accompanied by a guided missile or laser taking on opponents who may just be set up with completely the opposite, both in terms of ship speed and weapon types. In fact, if you decide to roll with a heavily armoured ship that can just storm its way through others with a hefty battering ram then you can do so. You’ll be left forever wishing you had a decent gun, but with no less than 15 ships and 16 different weapons for attachment, all with their own unique speed, thrust, mass, life, energy, boost and damage stats, it’ll be down to you and you alone should you pick a poor combo.
Solo adventurers may be pleased to see that the developers Forge Reply have included a challenge mode that looks to be set up perfectly for the loners. With 21 set scenarios in place, you’ll be urged to complete a variety of quick fire missions in order to unlock the next, gaining a whole ton of achievements in the process. You’ll be asked to fly from point to point to prove your ship handling prowess, be stuck stationary whilst you pick off enemies from afar and tasked with combining all your skills to prove that you’re the best damn space brawler the universe has ever seen.
The issue with these challenges however are that they serve as nothing more than a tutorial for the main arena action. Each one is over in a matter of seconds and whether you complete them to a decent degree or not is neither here nor there. You will be rated dependant on how well you do but failing and ‘passing’ the test with a lowly F rank still counts towards the overall completion, giving no reason for you to bother or stress too much over succeeding. Even the accompanied achievements will ping should you fail the challenges too, something that won’t bother cheevo hunters but may just annoy those who would like a bit of a test.
And that’s about all we have with In Space We Brawl. The arena side of things becomes boring real quick and even the huge variety of maps, ships and weapons that have been included fail to keep you or your sofa friends interested for long enough. Include the poorly implemented single player challenges and brawling in space has never been so disappointing.
In fact, it comes to something when you find the vast majority of your play time with a game is spent messing around in the options, choosing different ships and weapons as opposed to getting down and dirty in a space dogfight. That is however something which I’ve found myself doing on multiple occasions with In Space We Brawl.