Initially launched in 2015, the co-op centric Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime sees you running a neon battleship that can be controlled by up to four players as you blast aliens while defending your space vehicle. There are parallels with Affordable Space Adventurers and Overcooked, but the emphasis here is far more on shooting.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime was released on PC and Xbox One in 2015, prior to its 2016 release on PlayStation 4. The title may sound like a low-budget movie from 1973, and its bright colours probably help put it in the retro-style category, but there’s more here than meets the eye. The game itself is about cooperation and co-dependency, so it’s very much a team game, if that floats your boat. Its innovative approach to what is essentially a space-shooter game even manages to teach the odd lesson over the six hours of play.
It doesn’t take long before you get the hang of it, even while you are being pleasantly distracted by the techno soundtrack. Don’t get the wrong impression; there are times when it is difficult; in fact, insanely so, but you will want to keep going to save those space bunnies.
You really will need the help of another to help you through this game, which somewhat explains the title. In fact, you need each other so much that when you eventually get each other through it, you might find that you have formed a deeper bond.
The game sees you and your partner (although you can play solo if you really must), in charge of a ship that is meant to be run by seven people. The challenge is making your way from one station to the next using whatever function is required at any given time: a “yamato cannon” that spins uncontrollably, a machine that blocks incoming fire by rotating a shield around the ship, a map room to help find kidnapped bunnies, and gun ports at all four cardinal directions. Of course, the ship requires someone to drive it, while avoiding the many obstacles along the way.
It’s hard to tell whether it’s easier to play with a real-life person or with an AI pet (dog or cat, equipped with helmet). You can have an AI partner run around seeking to control any of your ship’s stations (pilot seat excluded). They are capable of moving at lightning speed and it’s easy to see where each pilot is located at any one time. The problem is that they don’t have the same capacity for triage as a human can offer. For example, your AI dog could rotate the shield in order to block a lone incoming projectile, only to move the shield away from 30 projectiles being fired from another direction.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime offers a retro vibe, and let’s face it, something old has become ironically fashionable in recent years. We’ve even seen the return of the Commodore 64 to satisfy those retro tastebuds. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime isn’t the only game to take us on a trip down memory lane, either: they’ve also become popular on online casinos. Mr. Green’s Neon Staxx is one such example. Sure, the website offers a number of more conventional games, such as Twin Spin and Divine Fortune – tempting for new players to grab that £100 matched bonus– but it also acknowledges our love of nostalgia.
The option of playing with either a real-life person or an AI pet illustrates the variation we have in games technology today. Online gaming has grown in popularity in recent years, with the concept of emergent AI having been explored in such games such as Nintendogs, Black & White, and Creatures.
There are no shortage of enemies in LIADS. In fact, the difficulty spikes can lead to death in no time at all, even on the easier of the two difficulty modes. That wouldn’t be an issue when you’re firing at tiny blobs that resemble metroids. When you’re simultaneously fleeing from hostile territory, however, shooting at big swarms and protecting your vehicle from ginormous pill bugs, it is a very different scenario.
Make no mistake, there’s a lot of work involved here. The four chapters requires great teamwork, such as assigning each task to the player best suited to completing them e.g. driving the ship or manning the left and upper cannons.
There is never a dull moment in Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. There are some wildly varied levels, which can see you do anything from protecting your hyperdrive from the gnashers of interdimensional creatures to fighting bosses based on constellations. There is also an abundance of upgrades, such as speed boosts and guns enhanced with wrecking balls designed to shoot chargeable lasers.
While the game can last for some five hours, there is no shortage of variety. Each level is different from the last- one minute you’ll be ricocheting between frantic time-sensitive rescue missions, exciting boss battles, and underwater surfing missions, with very little repetition. One thing that each level has in common is a need for coordination, especially once you’ve unlocked more advanced ships that tear the game’s core rules to shreds.
If you’re expecting a romantic game, you will be sorely disappointed. There really isn’t any“loving” going on at all in Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. There may be references to love, such as the heart-shaped spaceships, but the hottest it gets is frogs and bunnies holding hands. The love here is all based around co-dependency.
The word “dangerous” is far more apt, however. The game revels in throwing you into the deep end (literally) after you’ve managed to escape the deep end of an adjacent pool. Don’t let that put you off, as the relentless fighting for your life with your co-player is what makes the co-dependency part of it ultimately rewarding.
Several difficulty spikes can temporarily spoil the fun, but the focus on relying on the skills of another player to help overcome those challenges is more often that not, sufficiently strong to make up for any occasional annoyance. Multiple fun powerups and varied level design add to what is overall some fun 2D-shooter action, with an effervescent, colorful background, and ear-catching soundtrack.