It feels a bit like a game made for 2020. You’re isolated in your apartment, with only your housemates for company, while you all frantically clean before the evil dirt overcomes your precious living space.
Released in the ‘before-times’ (Feb 2020), Out of Space is a quirky, rogue-like, procedural generated strategy game that requires you to santise, build, and buy your way through a series of rooms. Although simple to learn, the mechanics hold a surprising amount of depth (for a game about cleaning your room), and are enjoyably frustrating to master.
Your character is deposited, without too much backstory, on your new space based apartment. Clearly, the new age utopia of Star Trek never came to pass as here we live in a horrific capitalist dystopia. The implication is you are a young person, starting out in life in your first apartment. You have a few goodies with you to start you off, but it’s immediately apparent the landlord has not so much as glanced at the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, let alone followed its doctrine. Not only is the place filthy, but the filth is in fact super deadly (touching it a few times results in a game over), and is deposited by alien bugs, who are also deadly. Oh, and none of the rooms even have electricity. Armed with a mop, a bucket, and a pumpkin plant, your job is to clean the apartment, and provide power to all the rooms before you succumb to the grisly dirt. Oh, and make sure you sleep and eat regularly, or you will pass out or die (respectively). Oh, and you also get rid of stuff you don’t want, including the aliens, by throwing them into a “recycler”. Grim. Oh, and… No I’m done.
I should note at this point, that although the game is billed as multiplayer, I was unable to find an online game over the weekend I played, might be my fault, might not be, but either way this is focusing largely on the single-player aspect. For what it’s worth, I can absolutely see this being a fun party game in the same vein as Overcooked. Ok, “fun” might be relative, but it does feel like a slightly chiller version of that, even sharing a similar art style.
For the single player mode then, it starts off very nice and easy, although you’re largely left to trial and error to figure out how things work and what does what. When you pick up an item it explains what it does, which is nice for scatter brained individuals like me, but it’s up to you to figure out how that works in the wider context of your apartment. You access rooms by spilling water over the door from the bucket, using the mop to clean any dirt (again, this dirt will kill you), and then plugging in a battery to the power core. Batteries are obviously a vital part of the game, and can be purchased through the store. The store requires money, which you can obtain by recycling (into your recycler) trash, aliens, pumpkins, or just about anything you can find I think. You also get a dog which helps you deal with aliens, I would imagine that’s a unique item to single player, as in multiplayer that role would be filed by one of your mates.
The random items you find (or purchase) are what make the game interesting. There are several ways to go about obtaining things, ie purchasing an exercise bike that earns you money, or buying a mixer that lets you turn several aliens (and pumpkins) into batteries instead of having to buy them. You can also buy ‘strategic’ objects, such as quarantine spray that prevents the dirt coming back for a time, or a rug that prevents the dirt spreading in that room. You can start to see the strategy aspect coming in here, and don’t worry, I did wonder about that before I played too, but I think it’s quite well done.
Now, I did have a few hangups. Although far from a steep learning curve, there comes a point where the base game feels impossible on single player. The time aspect (there are entry ports for the dirt into some rooms, and if left unchecked will spread and spawn more aliens) becomes incredibly vicious once you get to the medium ship. There are too many rooms to keep an eye on by yourself, all while trying to get further into the house. It feels possible, but it’s a very sudden change from ‘pushing forward while spinning a plate or 2′, to suddenly ‘spinning like 30 plates while balancing an elephant on your big toe’. It seems to reach a point where the slightest mistake brings everything crashing down, or at least forces a hasty retreat. Now don’t get me wrong, I boyfully played on, and managed to beat the medium apartment, but I didn’t think I could do the large.
Enter Zen Mode. This is a brilliant addition by the developer, because it allows idiots like me (and those with actual disabilities) to get a really good feel for the game without getting overly frustrated. As a strategy game, the early game is all pretty similar and due to the sudden ’30 plates and an elephant’ issue, I was getting a bit sick of playing essentially the same non-challenging 15 minutes over and over, only to run around like a headless chicken for 10 stressful minutes, before dying because I picked up a box of family portraits instead of a mop. Zen mode basically removes (it says ‘removes’ but really it just drastically reduces its severity) the time factor, so dirt no longer spreads as fast. This takes a huge amount of pressure off, and if I’m being honest, I just had fun. I was able to mess about with some of the mechanics because I was no longer having to go back and forth between rooms and scrubbing down air vents.
Again, in a multiplayer game you would have teammates to help out with this, and by all accounts that’s how this is meant to be played so I wouldn’t have much of a leg to stand on if that’s just how the game was, but for what it’s worth, I really appreciated Zen mode being included.
I did have a couple of gripes though. There isn’t much in the way of on screen info. The tiredness and hunger meters only show up as they tick past certain thresholds (or when they’re near full), and although dirts spreads and has a visual indication of when it’s about to do so, there isn’t a meter that tells you how long you’ve got, which makes planning more difficult than it should be. Similarly, I died once because just as I opened a door to bash the filthy aliens, my dog decided he was hungry and wandered back to his mat, and wouldn’t come and help until I gave him a pumpkin (seriously, pumpkins just do everything in this game). A lil meter (or even just a warning) would have been a fine addition.
Out of Space
Frustrating deaths aside, the games aren’t (usually) more than an hour long, even on the biggest maps, so even if you’re in deep you haven’t lost that much. And honestly, it’s actually a really fun game. I’m disappointed I didn’t get to try out the multiplayer, but I did really enjoy the single player. It’s far from groundbreaking, and reminds me of a few other concepts/gameplay ideas I’ve seen, but the developers have done a good job of bringing all these elements together and making something enjoyable out of them.
- Easy enough to pick up and play
- Fun & Enjoyable
- Challenging later on
- Couldn’t find anyone on multiplayer
- Single player (non zen) maybe not balanced that well
- Could do with a slightly deeper HUD
- Graphics 0
- Gameplay 0
- Narrative 0
- Audio 0
- Technical 0