In Spaceguy, no one can hear you scream with annoyance
Spaceguy 2, from Light Soft, is not a good game. Designed as throwback to the earliest FPS games, it lacks the basics that made so many of those early games so memorable. It reminds me of 1993’s Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold but with fewer mechanics, poorer level design and messy controls. There’s a lot to be said for a well-constructed nostalgia piece, but sadly, this is not one of them.
Things don’t start too well with the main menu of the original game being used, complete with title Spaceguy v1.0 appearing across the top of the screen. A readme option shows (some of) the controls, as well as bios for the different enemies you’ll come across. There’s no mention of what what your objectives are — or options to remap keys and change mouse sensitivity or graphical settings. Not the best beginning.
Starting the game up, you’re quickly dropped into the first stage with no loading times, which is nice. Movement is handled by WASD with mouselook (although not up and down), E to open doors and left mouse to attack. The mouse controls immediately feel off, with very stuttery movement as you turn left and right. When picking up the first weapon (a sword), I found that holding the left mouse button sometimes repeatedly attacked, but occasionally didn’t. This happened with a variety of weapons I came across. So, still not looking too great.
Opening the first door reveals an alien, and you immediately start taking damage. Before the alien has even seen you, it’s started firing at you, hurting you through the door. There is literally no way to avoid this damage, although you may not realise you’re being hurt, seeing as there is almost no feedback when you are hit. Taking it out with the sword, you move on and collect a gun before heading into a room with three enemies. Again, as soon as they see you you’ll take damage, with no way to avoid it. You’ll find the exit keycard, some health and ammo in here before heading onwards.
The level continues in this style, as do future ones, with these issues becoming more and more annoying. The distance you can see is very short, meaning you get killed by enemies you can’t see. You can only carry ten bullets in your basic gun (more with others) and ammo can only be collected for the gun you currently have equipped. Stage two begins with an alien right in front of you, immediately harming you as it starts. There is so much wrong in terms of Spaceguy 2’s design. The games it attempts to emulate got these things right twenty-five years ago!
Then there’s the level design itself. Everything looks the same, meaning getting lost is a very real possibility, especially considering there’s no map (remember, Doom had a map in 1993). There’s a shotgun in the first level that you can get to by walking down a five-minute long corridor! It’s not hidden behind a secret panel or a challenge of any kind, beyond the player having enough patience to walk all the way there and back again. Perhaps that corridor is a metaphor for Spaceguy 2 as a whole.
I’m rarely this negative about a game, but it’s one I really wanted to like. The trailers look fun and it does come across in the promotional material as a retro-style game thanks, in part, to its art style. Enemies are chunky and look interesting (although there aren’t many variations), and there are some nice environmental details here and there. The music — what there is of it — is also quite good and fits the game well.
That’s really about as positive as I can be about Spaceguy 2, though. It has attempted to be a throwback to the games of years gone by, but without looking at what made those games good or what modern conventions should be included. No customisable controls, no way to avoid damage, missing graphical options, the lack of a map… These are all things that should be standard, even when making a retro-inspired FPS. It’s a shame, as this is an interesting genre that is quite underserved at this point. Hopefully, someone will take a look at this and work out how to do it far better.
Spaceguy 2 is available now on PC via Steam.