Being a rocket scientist is often used as a byword for being fairly smart. Well, here we have the chance to prove that we are as smart as a rocket scientist, and that’s all thanks to the latest from Studio Floris Kaayk – Next Space Rebels. With a very large back story to discover, parts to collect and rockets to not only design, but build and launch, is this worthy of your time or does it fail to achieve lift off?
Next Space Rebels seems to be based around a kind of online community on a website called StarTube, which is completely unlike YouTube except for every tiny detail. We start out as fans of RocketGirl; a girl in a fetching pink jumpsuit who makes crazy rockets and launches them for the entertainment of the general public.
Now, as we go on, it turns out, via some rather heavy handed storytelling and dreadful acting, that StarTube and its parent company are not at all benevolent, and we end up down one of the internet rabbit holes, heading into a world of conspiracy theories and rebels. Next Space Rebels, in fact!
The game falls into roughly three parts. There is the social media simulator part, where you have to upload the videos you make, tag them and hope that the views and subscribers climb and your rank lifts.
The second part is the actual fun bit (spoiler alert) where you are given a series of missions and challenges to achieve; basically you have to design and build a rocket, then launch it to try and meet the tasks.
The third part is a text message simulator – you have to interact with various people in a text format, choosing from a range of responses in order to advance your relationships. And we all know what relationships mean when you are a big StarTube star, right? That’s right… free stuff. Instead of cars and swanky handbags though we get improved rocket parts and upgraded engines, allowing us to fly higher and faster than ever before.
By far the best part of Next Space Rebels is the actual designing and building of the rockets, the bending of physics to your will and seeing things fly off into the air. They also come down again, but we don’t need to be concerned about that. Although I’m sure Mr Smith at number 52 would be interested in knowing who blew his greenhouse up…
Anyway, the actual design of the rocket is done in a kind of CAD (Computer Aided Design) program, and is as simple as dragging your components onto the board, arranging them in a manner that is both pleasing to the eye and the laws of aerodynamics, and then pressing “Build”. As I’m sure we are all aware, a rocket is traditionally a pointy tube, with a motor at one end and a nose cone at the other, maybe with some fins at the bottom if we want it to fly in a reasonably straight line. But not here as the only limit is your imagination.
As you collect parts from the people you meet, you can send a teddy into orbit, build the rocket out of old tin cans or funnels, and even blast off with a rocket made of toilet paper. Seeing the design take shape before you, then trying out new ideas and seeing how they work, how they affect the flight of the rocket, is genuinely good fun. To be honest I’d be happy if this was the sum total of the game, as this is very enjoyable. But, sadly, it isn’t.
We have to talk about the rest of Next Space Rebels here, and this is where the news isn’t so good. The actual ‘chatting with other people’ side of things isn’t too bad, if a little long winded and somewhat ridiculous. The whole setup of the story is all a bit too tinfoil hat for me and I have to say that the videos that you have to watch, that don’t involve rockets at least, are just plain bonkers.
It features a group called the Next Space Rebels, who have decided that space is for everyone, not just for “billionaires who jettison cars in space”: can’t think who that is a swipe at. They have decided that whoever controls the satellites around the Earth, controls the Internet (yes, the whole thing) and so the best way to take back control is to launch some rockets from your local school playground. I’m unsure how this will affect the whole future of the interwebs, but you’ll have to play your part.
The acting in the videos that you have to watch is typically over the top and ridiculous, and all that is missing is an admonition to “Smash that Like button!” to make it just like the rest of those who infest YouTube these days. The game would have been just fine without any of this nonsense, to be honest, and would have been a tighter experience without it.
In conclusion, Next Space Rebels is a great rocket designing and building simulator, with a lot of unnecessary frippery attached. If you like to wear tinfoil hats then you may get something out of the story, but to be honest the best part is making and flying rockets. The story is ridiculous, the acting overblown and ridiculous, and the messaging system is so slow it just annoys. But look away from those bits and let your imagination run wild, and it’s rather decent.
Next Space Rebels is available for download from the Xbox Store