Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime Review (Xbox One)
According to the ancient philosophers Huey Lewis and the News, the power of love makes the world go round. In Asteroid Base’s Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, the equal, but opposite, power of anti-love is going to make the whole universe stop going ‘round unless you can battle it out against infinite space-foes and cantankerous controls to stop them.
As your space pilots of choice, you and a friend (or you and an AI companion) will traverse the universe looking for lovers separated from their friends and families, battling it out in randomly-generated, shmup-style levels. While most shmups have fairly straightforward controls, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime’s odd inputs are both its most interesting feature and biggest annoyance. Your ship comes armed with guns aiming in every cardinal direction, a map, shields, thrusters, and the all-powerful, slowly-charging Yamato cannon, each of which must be manned one at a time by hustling your little pilot around the ship to do whatever needs done most at any given moment. In theory, this requires players to constantly shift their attention, leading to a pleasing tug-of-war between all the different spaceship stations. In actuality, however, these funky controls are most un-lovely.
Enemies attack from every direction frequently, and each level has you constantly on the move to search for missing animal people; two players just aren’t enough to manage all these things competently. Even with direct communication with your partner you’re always spread too thin; if you’ve got shields up and guns blazing in one direction, you’re being attacked from behind. If your thrusters are going full speed and the Yamato cannon’s leveling the opposition, your shields are in the wrong spot and you’re taking massive damage. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime’s control scheme would make for an awesome four-player couch co-op title— with eight different stations to juggle control of you and your friends would be constantly scrambling while still (mostly) managing to keep things under control. As it is, things feel spastic, and each level feels like an unrelenting assault on whatever you’re not protecting.
LIDS’ stages are all randomly generated, and since player death sends you to the start of the same stage with an entirely new layout, this leads to far more frustration than it should. There are a number of neat mechanics throughout the game as you progress, like watery planetoids with rippling currents pushing your ship on a pre-determined path, or gravitational fields which keep your ship moving in their orbit even if you’ve stopped, plus the large variety of enemy types and tactics keep a healthy variety to the proceedings. There are also some boss battles which are a little too long and repetitive, but get the job done.
LIDS offers an interesting system for gaining power, letting you increase your ship’s abilities and combine power-ups Gunstar Heroes-style, creating some really cool combos like beam-powered thrusters or giant laser-spewing flails. With awesome weapons like these, it’s all the more frustrating when you and your partner are floundering around trying to get to the proper stations to kick ass with your combo-powered spaceship.
LIDS’ graphical style certainly won’t push anyone’s systems to the breaking point, but it’s cute, clean, and very coherent. The audio is pretty minimalist save for the devilishly catchy synth tunes pulsing throughout each level.
With just two players, the controls fight you as much as the enemies do, and the randomly generated levels drag on too long and provide too harsh a punishment for death. If you were hoping that something with a title like Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime might be a good game to play with your video game-challenged partner, prepared to be heartbroken. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime tried for a bold experiment with its control scheme, and though this sets it apart from other similar games, it’s ultimately an experiment that needs to go back to the drawing board.
This review is based on a download of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime provided by the publisher for Xbox One.