Space Run PC Review
There are waves upon waves of tower defence games on the market, but once in a while a game is released that changes up the dynamics of the genre and adds a bit of a refreshing spin on the formula. The game to do that this time is Space Run for the PC, a game that sprung up out of the blue by first-time independent developers Passtech Games from France. The team at Passtech Games class Space Run as a “real-time spaceship construction strategy game”, which is an intelligent way of saying that the game twists the tower defence mechanics and merges it with the gauntlet event from the 90s show Gladiator (replacing humans with ships, of course) to make for one energetic and reaction-based video game.
In the year 2525, you play Captain Buck Mann, an ex-Earth Force pilot who has now turned his hand to being a space runner (think of a trucker in space), aiming to become the best courier service in the depths of space. He lives by few bucks (cash for us British folk) and follows two key mottos, “Fast safe delivery” and “When you need it there yesterday.” Buck Mann is also in a lot of debt, thanks to his dangerous intergalactic gambling, which the space mob (I wonder if they are still Italian?) are gunning him down for. It’s your job to help Buck Mann keep up with his mottos and earn the cash by delivering cargo for various customers. The problem is that space is full of deadly asteroids and evil space pirates, who want nothing but your precious cargo, even if it means blowing your space craft into millions of pieces across the galaxy. While the story itself is forgettable, the dialogue that happens between clients and Buck is amusing, with a great sense of humour thrown in for good laughs. I was surprised to find it this comical, especially so, due to the type of game this is, but I can say that you will find a lot to like with the characters in Space Run.
Companies will come with job offers, such as Big Cargo, a highly successful transportation company that has become so big that they need to hire additional contractors to help with delivering cargo, to the likes of Nuclear Star, who you have to take care shipping their nuclear waste or fuel, or VIP travel, who ask you to turn your cargo ship into a travelling space craft to take some very rich people on a deep space trip. Things should be simple, but thanks to the nasty things that inhabit space, you have to defend client cargo from destruction or being looted by space pirates, because no cargo means zero payment for Buck Mann. The placement of cargo on your ship is important, because losing cargo also means less reputation points, making Buck Mann the laughing stock of the space courier alliance (if such thing exists), so it’s always good to plan where to place them, especially the nuclear waste that explodes when destroyed, blowing bits of your ship into the vast black sphere known as space.
The gameplay in Space Run is extremely easy to grasp. Your space craft, a ship made out of hexagonal panels that join together to create various shapes and sizes (depending on the mission), is sent on a straight line across space. A little map at the bottom of the screen shows how long you have to travel before you get to the destination, giving you an idea how long you need to stay alive before the mission is complete. During this time frame, you need to defend against natural dangers and looters. To do this you use hexnuts to build components to fit onto the hexagonal panels, such as laser turrets, missile launchers, machineguns, but you aren’t just limited to attacking weapons, as shields and boosters can also be added, with the latter helping you to reach the destination faster and in turn gaining more reputation points (basically a five star rating used to unlock stuff) for beating the mission’s speed challenge.
Early missions are incredibly easy, and it actual leads into a false sense of security that you can get away with playing Space Run by simply having the best balanced layout on your ship. This is not the case. There is a very important element behind the gameplay of Space Run, and that is micromanagement, and lots of it. Hexnuts are important for getting your defence systems up and running, but you have a limited supply. You slowly gain hexnuts over time, but if you want more, then you need to take down anything that is coming to damage your ship, as they drop bigger groups of hexnuts for you to collect by hovering over them with the mouse cursor. Speed can also be replaced for hexnuts, as turning off the thrusters will increase the rate at which your ship generates hexnuts, but of course, this is sacrificing speed, meaning you’re in the depths of space for longer and enemies have more of chance of hitting you. Danger can come from 360 degrees, so figuring out when to spend hexnuts or selling equipment to build a replacement turret at a different position or one that counters an incoming enemy type is key to getting through Space Run with a successful rating.
More micromanagement is needed when you have access to extra items and skills for gear. New weapons and skills first need to be unlocked by meeting the required reputation points, and then bought with the cash you earned from beating missions. These skills can either be passive or active, with active skills using hexnuts to buff them in some way, such as turning the laser turret into a rapid fire turret for 30 seconds, which deals much more damage, or the much brilliant skill that unlocks the ability to change the direction of gun placements once built, which is an amazing life saver, because of the 360 circle of danger. Later shipping lanes become so hectic that you are always flipping direction of gun turrets. It might be a simple game to explain, but the player is kept active by having to keep an eye out on what is going on around them and managing accordingly. Gaining new gear or skills is also a great way to go back to old missions and earn reputation rankings or to increase your best score.
If there is one thing to fault, it’s that Space Run plays it safe with the concept. The initial idea is solid and plenty of fun, but it never does anything to take it further. You get bigger ships, more cargo, boss attacks that circle your ship, and more weapons and enemies, but it would have been nice to see something like weather handicaps, night travel or even additional ships that need protection, something that would spice up the flavour of the game so that I could play it in longer stints, rather than feeling I need to take a break after a few missions to give myself some time away from the game and come back later ready for more enemy waves.
Space Run is a solid entry in a genre that is full of unimaginative titles, and from the get go Space Run supplies an easy to understand, but challenging to beat campaign that will keep people’s minds and fingers active from beginning to end. With a different spin on the tower defence format, it’s a shame that Space Run doesn’t push itself a little more with its gameplay concept, but what you do have is a very amusing game that’s great fun in blasts and won’t damage the wallet with its bargain price on Steam. This is a game worthy of your time for anyone who is tired of the genre or just wants to play something a bit different.