Game Review - Spaceteam and Artemis! The only way to go to space! Sort of!SPAAAAAAACE!
You know the great thing about space? It's out there, but you won't (probably) ever have to go there. Shows that are set in space that rock (Three of the five Star Trek series, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica) do so partially because of their ethereal yet claustrophobic setting, but mainly because they force writers (if they're good) to look inwards, at the crew, stuck in tiny vessels in the emptiness of nothingness. Also there are robots sometimes, and those guys are great.
But there are many people out there, myself included, who get all flustered whenever one of these shows focuses on the really meaty centre of space travel: the traveling itself. Adama standing in CIC on-board Galactica, barking orders before a frantic FTL jump. Picard yelling for shields to be raised. Malcolm Reynolds ordering Wash to pull of a high-risk and brutally, confusingly arousing manoeuvre which totally gets me hot and not even slightly ashamed. These are the moments that make you want to command a spaceship.
Today, I'm going to review two incredibly different IOS apps which let you do just that: one, a stupidly addictive party game called Space Team, and the other, a port of a gloriously complex team-based space sim called Artemis. Both have eaten several days of my life, and it would be remiss of me not to spill all my feelings about them into your… uh… basin of.. listening. Yeah. That'll do.
Spaceteam is the lovechild (so to speak) of Henry Smith, who according to his blog, quit Bioware to develop indie games. As it turns out, Henry nailed this one: it combines yelling, nonsense words, and frantic jaunts through sectors of space. Basically, it's a party game, and it works like this: each person (up to four players) uses either their iPhone or iPad, which becomes a control panel on what is, evidently, the strangest spaceship ever. Each round, you're given a panel with random dials, sliders and buttons, totally randomised and totally different to those belonging to your friends. And when each round begins, you start getting tickertape on your screen telling you what needs to be done.
Only - and here's the kicker - you don't have the device on your panel to fix what you're being told to fix. Someone else has it. And they're getting similarly unachievable goals. This is when the yelling begins. The glorious, horrifying yelling. Spaceteam is designed to be a loud, weird, angry and extremely edifying experience in which, occasionally, teamwork feels good. Even if half the time, one person is always getting you killed. Yell at that person. You'll feel better afterwards.
Next, we have perhaps the nerdiest thing i've ever macked on for a year. At least.
Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator.
Artemis isn't perfect, but it's the closest thing you'll get to piloting a totally awesome actual spaceship for a looooong time. Here's the breakdown. Basically, a maximum of six people can use their ipads to step into a different station on a single ship. The ship then heads out into space, but you and your crew are in control of everything in the ship: weapons, helm, engineering, science, commas, and the captain need to work together as a group. Each job is basically a totally unique experience; engineering, for example, seemed dull until I tried it out. Your job as the engineering officer is to look at your totally unique screen, adjust power levels (for example, under fire you'd allocate more power to shields), and manage overheating by allocating coolant on the fly. You're also tasked with sending damage control teams to repair crucial ship components under fire.
That's just one station. Every station has to work fluidly with the captain, who doesn't actually control anything. All the captain has is control of the viewscreen, looking out of the ship at the space around the vulnerable and complex craft. Heading into a firefight means telling your various crew members to raise shields, allocate power, load and fire torpedoes, lock beams onto enemy subsystems and make course corrections. If this sounds horrible to you, that's fine. You have no soul. No spirit. But if it's filling you with a weird tingling feeling, you're ready for Artemis. Or, alternatively, you're about to have a seizure. Lie down somewhere safe and wait for help to arrive.
So there you have it! Two very different space sims to play with your friends. Me? Well, I'm part of a sketch comedy group called The Lords of Luxury. There are four of us (including TheVine's own Luke Ryan), and the new season of our podcast (now on iTunes, cough cough) includes a regular sketch called Spaceships, in which four idiots fly through space in a ship called The Lordship. Tonight, I plan on creating this ship in Artemis, and seeing just how quickly we die.
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