While co-operative campaigns are pretty commonplace these days, it’s rare that a title is developed around the mechanic of two players working in tandem. For every game that requires players to fully concentrate and work together as one cohesive unit, like the PS2 cult classic The Adventures of Cookie & Cream, there are a dozen other games that just slapped on the ability for two people to damage bad guys instead of one.
Looking to put cooperative titles back into the gaming spotlight is Asteroid Base’s Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, an ambitious indie gem that relies completely on teamwork and the ability to adapt to situations on the fly. From its terrific art style to its innovative gameplay, there is a lot to enjoy in this date gone awry.
The goal in Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is relatively simple: You must explore space while rescuing adorable space bunnies that have been kidnapped, and doing so will help destroy the evil Anti-Love forces. At first glance, the game could be confused for your average twin stick space shooter, but thankfully there is a much more interesting control scheme to be found within.
The spaceship that players operate is so massive that it takes two people to run it. This means that you’ll constantly be running to and from command posts in order to use different weapons or use any of the ship’s various functions. And boy, there are a lot of different functions. Players will be tasked from the get go with operating a steering wheel, four different turret guns, a powerful laser beam that circles around the ship at all times, and a reflective shield.
That is a lot to take in for any gamer, let alone two players that may be of different skill levels. Thankfully, Asteroid Base has included a pretty stellar tutorial that introduces each part of the ship one-by-one. This allows players to get used to using each area of the ship, and to find out where each of their strengths and weaknesses lay. For example, I was much more adept at steering the spaceship than my partner, which meant I spent far more time behind the wheel.
The meat and potatoes of the experience are found within the game’s four campaigns, with each campaign being composed of several different randomly generated levels. While the goals in each level will be the same upon replaying, the layouts vary. This means that every attempt of a campaign will be different, similar to how Left 4 Dead handled its story mode.
Since you’ll be replaying campaigns, it’s nice that the game has a great variety of mission types. Although the main goal will always be to collect enough space bunnies to continue onward, some levels will have you travelling through wormholes where your ship stays still, and you must work together with your partner to fend off waves of enemies. The variety keeps Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime feeling fresh throughout all four of its campaigns.
There’s also plenty to collect and see in each of the gorgeous levels. Players can find gifts floating in space, and once collected, these gifts give the player power-ups that can be used on any of the spaceship’s areas. There’s an almost endless amount of customization to be done, as turrets can become lasers, and even giant mace-like weapons. You can adapt your ship to your own unique style, which again goes a long way in making every campaign feel fun to repeat.
Each campaign is also capped off with a boss battle that’s based on constellations such as Ursa Major and Cetus. For example, in the first campaign you’ll face off a gigantic bear that is ready to claw into your ship at any moment. They’re a definite test of your skill, but are oh so satisfying once they are dealt with. That said, they also demonstrate one of the core problems with Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: its truly challenging difficulty.
While there certainly isn’t anything wrong with a healthy challenge in a video game, it does hurt when the game is meant to be played with others. Even if a less skilled player can make sense of the controls, there is no guarantee that they will be skilled enough to finish anything more than the first campaign. There’s an easy difficulty as an option, but even when the challenge is turned down a notch, things are still far from a cakewalk.
The other hurdle that Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime ends up stumbling over is its inclusion of a single-player mode. While it’s certainly better than not including the option at all, a lot of the experience is lost when you play alone. Instead of working together, players command an AI controlled dog to different command posts. This works, but adds even more stress to the experience. It isn’t nearly as unique or rewarding as the cooperative play and it just isn’t how Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime should be played.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a thrilling game to play with a friend. Cooperation is essential here, and Asteroid Base has managed to teach gamers a lesson that can be applied in their real life as well as in virtual worlds. It’s certainly a bit too difficult at times, but if you and your partner have the necessary skill and patience, then you can look forward to a very cheerful intergalactic date.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which we were provided with for review.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is one of the most unique games to come out in quite some time. In fact, the only thing keeping it from being a blast for everyone is its intense difficulty.