Review | Space Ark
When Pigs Fly…
Format: Xbox 360 | Genre: Action Puzzle | Publisher: Xbox LIVE arcade | Developer: Strawdog Studios | Release Date: 16/06/10 | RRP: £6.80 (£800 MS points)
Greg Giddens tackles the unique and charming puzzle game SPACE ARK.
IMMENSELY COLOURFUL, bright and cute seems to be the order of the day with puzzle game Space Ark, and it’s certainly visually busy enough to grab your attention and entertaining enough to keep you initially hooked. However, the addictive property puzzle games like these feed off of isn’t as strong as other titles out there, creating a potential problem for an otherwise charming and fun game.
Space Ark’s premise is simple; you must help a bunch of animals – or Arkonauts as Space Ark calls them – repair and terraform a collection of planets so as to reseed them with life. Your Arkonaut for each mission relies on you to move a pad along the ground in order to bounce them high enough to collect different colour pellets, fruit, and special items, which in turn scores you points. Once enough points are collected, the exit portal opens and you’re on your way to the next level.
The simplicity remains with the premise; actually playing soon becomes hectic and encourages an increasingly higher form of analysis and quick reactions to get the most points out of each level. This is where Space Ark shines, as the crowded screen bombards you with colourful objects, special abilities, and unique obstacles that successfully push the boundaries of your skill without becoming frustrating.
Cunning as a fox
With the left analogue stick you control the pad, whilst with the right stick you can guide the Arkonaut’s trajectory. Using both sticks together in this fashion is initially confusing but soon becomes second nature. Collecting the coloured pellets is the primary goal, sticking with a single colour at a time and collecting as many pellets as possible before your Arkonaut’s next bounce, yielding more points. Fruit can also be collected, increasing your score multiplier, and lastly there are special abilities which grant things like mounted guns, ground shields, and fruit vacuums. Deciding which of these items to go for and when to do so is where the analysis comes in. The pellets aren’t always bunched together with their counterpart colours and, as losing a life resets your multiplier, grabbing all the fruit straight away isn’t always advised. Add to that the specialabilities, deciding whether you need a mounted gun on your pad to turn the solid blocks into pellets rather than hitting them with your Arkonaut for no gain, or whether a ground shield that conserve a life following a failed bounce is worth the risk to collect, adds to the analytical strategy and becomes is a major part of the experience.
Indeed Space Ark is a busy game, but despite this it’s easy to learn – although it gets challenging quickly – and it’s also unique and enjoyable, with enough addictive quality to keep you returning to the large quantity of levels on offer. Each stage is also varied in its design and layout, which helps to quell the inevitable repetition that is an ever present issue with this genre.
In addition, Bonus levels collecting fruit are on offer to gain additional lives, and you have the option to switch your Arkonaut for your avatar instead. And if the singleplayer aspect begins to grind, two-player split screen offer s a competitive reprieve for a high score, although it’s a real shame there isn’t an online multiplayer mode.
Space Ark is charming and bright but gets repetitive, and certainly doesn’t suit long bouts of play. However, it doesn’t take long for the cravings to kick back in after a break, and you’ll soon find yourself revisiting Space Ark’s colourful characters and worlds to try and boost your high score with a new tactic.