• James Kinch

Review: Curved Space

Reviewed on: PC (Steam)

Publisher: Maximum Games

Developer: Only By Midnight

Available on: PC/XB/PS/NS

Curved Space, developed by Only By Midnight and published by Maximum Games, is a sci-fi, twin-stick shooter where the player controls a spaceship which traverses around space stations and asteroids in a Super Mario Galaxy-esque style while shooting, dashing and ‘lashing’ spiders.

The game opens on an atmospheric tone, showcasing the camera rotating round a planet with a space station emerging. It’s a great mix of sci-fi and 80s/90s and the presentation overall is a really fun opener.

The game features a few different modes including a campaign, a daily run, a survival run, arena challenges and an endless mode. The amount here is a bit deceptive, however. The campaign is where you’ll spend most of your time playing. The story, set around a female character who acts as your guide, involves hopping from different parallel worlds to create the ‘correct’ set of events. She splits into three versions of herself all telling you, the player, where to go with different lines of reasoning. The art and presentation of the story is great, even though it shifts away from how the gameplay looks significantly.

The gameplay involves wave-based, twin shooter combat with different objectives to break up the monotony. Additional objectives include killing certain types of spiders, ‘lashing’ them to drain them of their energy and to destroy certain objectives. The game also gives the player a very wide selection of guns to play with. They are picked up from dead spiders and offer a change up of the normal gameplay. My personal favourite combination was the Javelin with the Weed Whacker. The Javelin sticks into spiders and pins them to a wall for a brief time and the Weed Whacker forms in front of the ship and spins like a blade- it’s very satisfying to mash spiders.

Lashing allows the player to shoot a tether from their ship, linking it with a spider and linking it to a generator during one of the objectives. Spiders can be linked together to keep them in place and then linked to a generator to extract energy. The player can dash, limited to about 2-3 until it needs to recharge, and the player can go into ‘Overdrive’ based on a meter that fills up by killing certain enemies, where they become a lot stronger for a period of time based on how much the player shoots. Health can be generally regained by killing smaller spiders. These mechanics do add up to make a fun albeit repetitive experience while playing the game. Again, while the extra objectives do break it up, you start to see them often reappearing too. The game’s selection of modes also shrinks when you realise that the Daily Run, Survival and Endless are similar except that you only get one chance in the daily run which I’m not a big fan of. Survival gives you some extra health after every wave whereas in endless, you need to earn it back by killing the smaller spiders.

During a lot of the game modes, there is a short break where you can choose an upgrade. These include improving your dash, lash, damage of your guns or increasing your point total overall. I am not a fan of increasing your point total as an upgrade, but this is a personal gripe. Bosses also appear during the campaign after every mission, they’re larger scale versions of normal enemies and are quite fun to fight as some of them have unique attacks. Personal favourite of these is the lovingly named, Fred.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of the gameplay, you’ll be more than happy to play it while listening to the excellent music selection in the game. The developers knew it was a major selling point and so it has it’s own button on the menu which transforms the space station you’re looking at into a speaker which thumps with the music which was an absolute delight. The music is brought in from different artists, some of which I already knew – Neo Tokyo and Pheonix are songs that are already in my regular driving playlist and hearing the instrumentals for this was fantastic. They are the standouts for me by Scandroid but this isn’t to discredit the other pieces as they are also fantastic.

There is a lot of accessibility options for the game, which is great, especially to reduce motion sickness which would be typical of this game. I had no issues with this even though I was frantically flipping the game’s world around. Couple of bugs in the display menu, however where I couldn’t change the game’s resolution or Hz that the game would display in – it’d just change it back. Small mention of Twitch and YouTube too with instructions on what to do with the music for the platforms – a nice touch for content creators. One thing that should be addressed is the colour of the ‘Locked’ text and tips in the loading screens as I found them very hard to read. Solid white on black would work better for this.

Some ending notes for the game are that there is a good variety of levels, the difficulty jumps from normal to hard seems high but that might be me not having enough time in it, especially since it doesn’t feel like it ramps up over the course of the campaign meaning that you’re not really learning how to master dodging or move and shoot effectively. I think the timer is currently broken because I spent around 40 seconds in a Daily Run, and it said that I had done it within six minutes and 35 seconds. Leaderboards are present in the game and with the game’s scoring system, I’m sure there will be people looking to climb to the top. I’m happy to say that I was once second for campaign scoring and first for survival (even if there have only been three recorded scores so far at the time of writing).

To conclude, I enjoyed my time in Curved Space and will continue to play for a while longer, especially if it means I can rock out to Phoenix while shooting metal spider hordes, lashing them together and watching them squirm.