If you like indie games enough to visit a dedicated enthusiast site like IGM, then chances are you’ve probably already heard about Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. It won a whole bunch of festival awards last year when it hit the scene at places like IndieCade and PAX, taking home mainstream accolades like Destructoid’s Best of PAX East honor, as well as an Innovation Award from Extra Credits. Asteroid Base, the team behind the project, is made up of just three members, which makes what they’ve managed to come up with all the more impressive.
For those who don’t know, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a cooperative action game designed for two players, but still accommodates those who prefer to play solo. As players explore a colorful galaxy filled with planets, moons, and asteroids in their neon spaceship, they’ll complete objectives while avoiding hazards and combating various, villainous robots. The basic mechanics are very simple and intuitive, but the added element of a second player introduces a wildcard into the equation that leads to what makes Lovers such a heartthrob.
The demo at PAX East provided an excellent sampling of what the final version will likely look like. Players begin with a couple characters to choose between, and unlock more as the adventure progresses. Each “world” is themed around a constellation, broken into a handful of objective-based levels that culminate in a final boss fight against a robot version of said constellation. The levels leading up to the boss fight generally consist of fending off incoming robots looking to damage the spaceship whilst solving some light puzzles and rescuing kidnapped space bunnies. (The final version of the game will include other little critters to save based on the unlockable characters. So basically, each character has their own pocket of the galaxy and species to save from the robots.)
In order to protect the ship, players have a few different offensive and defensive measures. There are four turrets situated all around the ship, a defensive energy field limited in length that can be rotated all around the perimeter, and of course the ship itself can be steered out of tough battles. To operate these different mechanisms, players must hop between terminals inside the ship. As enemies are destroyed and puzzles are solved, players unlock the locations of critters in need of rescue, and can look at a full map of the world by using another terminal on the ship, or navigate using the minimap in the bottom left corner of the screen. There are also collectibles that can be used to upgrade the ship, turning turrets into homing missiles, strengthening the energy field, among other enhancements. The demo at PAX was pretty lax in terms of difficulty, but the finished game will undoubtedly require players to work in unison in order to defeat increasing waves of more difficult enemies.
As mentioned, 2-player co-op is the main focus of Lovers. It should be noted that the game can be played in single-player mode, in which case the player will command an AI dog companion that can be directed towards specific terminals, then left to its own devices when it comes to targeting enemies. However, it’s clear that Asteroid Base designed Lovers as a couch co-op experience. In regards to why the game lacks network support, instead opting to only include couch co-op, the team stated on their website that, “part of the joy of the couch co-op mode is the frantic shouting between two players when they’re sitting beside each other–’Get on the shield! The shiiieeeld!’ The original vision of the game was wanting to channel the feeling of that Millennium Falcon scene from the first Star Wars, the way Luke and Han shout back and forth on the turrets as their ship takes fire. And that’s something that works best when you’re sitting together.”
This idea is really exemplified well during the boss stages in Lovers. Having two players team up to take down a giant constellation boss monster is somehow both satisfying and stressful at the same time. When you’re perfectly in sync with your partner, you feel on top of the world and it’s high fives all day. (This was the case when I played with developer/artist Jamie Tucker and took on the Ursa Major boss, pictured below.) But when you’re totally on opposite ends of the strategy spectrum, you’ll be shouting and brought to near fisticuffs. It’s a learning experience in more ways than one, and at the end of the day, the charming visuals and impending lesson about how much more you can accomplish when you work together is enough to make the experience worthwhile.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime doesn’t yet have an exact launch date, and is still in active development. A few minor things may change here or there, but the experience will remain mostly as-is from this point forward. (I inquired about the potential for character customization in terms of accessories, but the devs were much more focused on polishing the gameplay. Fair enough.) When it does release, the game will be available on Xbox One and Steam (specifically for PC and Mac). If you’d like to know more about either Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime or Asteroid Base, be sure to check out the game on Facebook, and the dev team on Twitter and Tumblr.