In space, no-one can hear you run… and you’d suffocate. Probably better to use the treadmill.
Space Run Galaxy is about tessellation. It’s also an exciting thrill-ride about a daring captain who transports valuable cargo through dangerous spaceways filled with asteroids, hostile aliens and pirates. Mainly though, it’s a puzzle game about shapes and angles – and how to make them all fit together. Many games try to hide their mathematical equations behind the scenes because they’re (shockingly) not seen as exciting – but Space Run Galaxy boldly gambles that you’ll be enthralled with hexagonal arrangement, and it’s a gambit that pays off handsomely.
Space Run Galaxy starts you off as a newly minted captain of an interstellar delivery company. Your ship is unique in how it starts off every “Run” as a blank slate – as a featureless grouping of grey hexagons except for your cargo, a single thruster and a main bridge. All your weapons, shields, secondary thrusters and utilities are built during the mission itself. Weapons such as laser cannons can destroy oncoming threats, such as enemy attack drones and asteroids. From the wreckage of vanquished interstellar objects, you can gain lugnuts, which are your currency in building new systems. It’s important to build weapons that face the direction of oncoming threats and spread them out to cover your ship. You’ve also got to make sure you have adjacent shields or repairing utilities so your systems are sustainable under fire.
Completing each run is a delicate balancing act, as you’ll need to have a mix of speed and survivability on your ship. Adding extra thrusters to your ship will – in a shocking twist – make you go faster, and allow you to complete your run quicker; avoiding the possibility of failure because your client was drumming his fingers too long waiting for the goods. The problem with building your ship too much towards speed is that you won’t have enough bolts to build that crucial shield generator when you see an alert for an enemy ion bomber appearing off your broadside.
Things just get even more complex as upgrade facilities – which increase the traits and abilities of adjacent systems – are thrown into the mix. If you time the building of your upgrade facilities carefully, the results can be effective, and awesome. I always upgraded my missile launchers to do some serious splash damage over a dense grouping of components on opposing vessels – with predictably explosive results. Ultimately, your ship can become a convoluted mass of interconnected parts, and it’s easy to muddle your configuration in the middle of a tense battle and end up with a mismatched mess of systems on your deck. However, it’s well worth the satisfaction of watching all the proverbial cogs and gears turning together perfectly when you get it right.
Though your stellar feng shui – optimal arrangement of your facilities – is a core part of the experience, there’s a fair amount of opportunity to flex your twitch reactions and arcade skills. Your thrusters continually generate “focus” which you can use to activate abilities. Each ship system has a different ability. Laser cannons can fire a powerful, manually aimed blast that can destroy the command bridge of an enemy ship and blow them up in a single hit if you’re precise enough. Repair utilities can instantly heal your most damaged systems and save them from destruction if you’re quick firing them off.
Rapidly deploying your ship’s various abilities can make you feel like the conductor of a technological orchestra. When you’re deftly repairing, deflecting and destroying, there’s a feeling of harmonious synchronicity quite unlike anything else in gaming right now. When you bring everything together to blow up one of the hulking pirate captain vessels that appear at the end of certain runs; it’s a real mix of deep satisfaction and brow-wiping relief.
Deciding how much cargo to take on a run is where you’ll have to make lots of lip-bitingly tricky risk/reward decisions. Every slot you fill with cargo is another spot you can’t put that potentially ship-saving system in, but managing to make a big delivery when your ship is creaking under the weight of valuable goods can be worth it.
Between runs are spaceports, where you have a chance to buy upgrades for your ship and take on new missions. Missions will earn you rewards in the form of money and randomized supplies for the three types of systems you have: offensive, defensive and utility. You can combine these supplies to craft new systems to use on runs, and expand the overall size of your vessel. What makes Space Run Galaxy’s crafting so much more interesting and involved is how you’ll have to ferry supplies between worlds as cargo yourself, as not every world has a spaceport that can build the upgrades you need – and sometimes you’ll need a quite specific mix of supplies. This just adds another layer of depth to Space Run Galaxy’s risk/reward focus, and makes a potentially tedious crafting system straightforward, yet exciting.
Spaceports are also where you’ll experience the bulk of Space Run Galaxy’s story. You’re newly in the employ of Buck Mann; a handsome baseball-cap-wearing space-trucker with a wordly southern drawl. He’ll introduce you to a coterie of kooky characters like the canny power-suited executive Buck has a vaguely flirty relationship with; a monkey scientist who loves bio-molecular research – and bananas; and a shifty deepthroat-like fixer who wants dangerous nuclear waste discreetly disposed of. All the characters are superbly voice-acted, and the mission briefings are chock full of clever gags to give you a giggle as the plot unravels.
There’s another – entirely optional – online layer to Space Run Galaxy. If you need to ferry some supplies to a certain planet so you can combine them together to make upgrades – but don’t want a hassle of having to make the run yourself – you can offer the job to another Runner on the internet. If you offer a decent premium payment, you’ll soon find someone will eagerly snap up the job. You can fast travel to any planet you’ve already explored (as long as you’re not ferrying cargo), and it’s very nifty to return to a planet to find someone’s delivered your precious posessions for you. This also helps you make friends online who you can trade with for the valuable supplies you both need. Of course, jobs that other people post can create some lucrative opportunities for you to supplement your single-player mission income; as you can make a run to a planet laden with goodies for other players as well as your fictional benefactors.
As I’m writing this review, I’m self-consciously trying not to rush, as I can’t wait to start playing Space Run Galaxy again. There’s always that compulsive drive to earn more credits and upgrades for your ship – and grow it to a massive space-dreadnought, with a thrumming network of efficiently interlinked systems that would make Scotty swoon. When this is coupled with the easy charm of the characters you’ll meet, and the irresistible need to travel to the next planet to “see what’s out there” – Space Run Galaxy creates a universe that just beckons to be explored and exploited.
Final Score: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Focus Home Interactive ; Developer: Passtech Games ; Players: 1 ; Released: June 17th, 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy provided to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.