Wired Productions and Nosebleed Interactive smuggled a developer build of the upcoming Switch version of Vostok Inc. into EGX ’17 and I was lucky enough to spend some time with the intriguing twin-stick-shooter-cum-idle-game.
Vostok Inc, for those unfamiliar, somehow manages to not only combine two of the most over-saturated and oft dismissed genres — twin-stick space shooters and idle games — but do this unabashedly, with a self-aware sense of humour. It does it so well that it feels new and unique.
Playing as the new CEO of the titular company, your mission is simple: to accrue as much money as possible, maximising capitalist exploitation while destroying everything in the way of you turning a tight profit. Combat and mining both follow traditional twin-stick shooter mechanics, with everything from asteroids to enemy ships gobbing out currency and lumps of gold when they are destroyed. In the same manner that arcade games rack up scores for practically any action, Vostok Inc. piles on mounds of money at an ever-increasing rate.
This is where the idle game elements come into play; money can be spent on flooding planetary and lunar surfaces with industry and commercialism-centric ventures. It’s all for profit, of course. Alongside surface facilities and their upgrades, you can also find executives floating around in space, as well as middle-managers (they work like a combo: expendable, and vented into space when you fail) who all serve as multipliers. While the core gameplay remains almost exactly the same throughout the entire game, these surface facilities and your ever-growing staff keep increasing your rewards from kills. This has the added bonus of the fact that those numbers keep ticking when you’re not doing anything — if the Switch is in your bag, for example.
Vostok Inc. takes place over six different solar systems, with the first being our own. Each is gated, guarded by a gigantic boss which needs to be defeated in order to progress — odds against the beasties are improved by spending your callously collected cash on guns and ship upgrades. Weapons come in a variety of flavours, mixed together by the player who can (ultimately, once unlocked) combine three different elements to make weapons. The end results range from shotguns and reflective laser beams to converting hearts and unicorn guns. You can equip four weapon combinations, which (even though ammo is unlimited) is advisory as different weapons have vastly different ranges, effectiveness and tactical uses.
One of the more unique features of Vostok Inc, which follows a traditional open exploration format, is that on occasion a scout ship will lock you into a combat screen — literally framing the screen so that you can’t escape, having instead to survive waves of opponents. This is where some of the more specific or defensive weapons come in useful: deploy bombs or convert select enemies in these screens and you’ll win the challenge a lot quicker than if you simply tried to rail gun your way through.
Jimmy, the player’s sidekick, is on hand throughout the entire game, phoning with game references and hints and tips. He also serves as Vostok Inc.’s delivery method for the story, taking phone calls and holding exchanges with the factions that control each of the solar systems — factions which range from psychotic animals to cyborg mobsters.
In addition to the Vostok Inc.’s core loop of shooting, earning, and spending, players can also interact with the executives that have been collected. Each functions like a Tamagotchi, with three stats which can be topped up with gifts. In addition to this they each have a mini-game you can play; these range from Space Laser, a first-person Doom-like, to Tapeworm, which is a remake of Nokia classic Snake.
I’ve completed an instance of Vostok Inc. on the PC, a version burdened with a few issues: no resolution settings, keys advising heavy use of shift buttons (‘STICKY KEYS!’). Not only does the Switch version suffer neither of these issues, but the control options and portability of Nintendo’s platform make it vastly better suited for the game.
Vostok Inc. is already available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It will launch for Nintendo Switch later this year.
Edit: Edited to amend failed attempt at Latin, 18:04 10/11/2017