Long ago in a faraway future, love has conquered the galaxy. Using a machine called an ardor reactor, the “Lovers” – a series of explorers – took to space to unite the stars… and for a long time all was well.
Nothing lasts forever though, and an error in the reactor’s “XOXO matrix” allowed for the dark force of anti-love to seep in and scatter the reactor’s gears to the cosmos. All was not lost however, as the gears could be tracked and the Lovers were willing to take up the recovery mission. It’s there that we join our heroes, and it’s as one of these explorers that you’ll look to save the galaxy.
This is the premise behind Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, and I admit that it’s one I was apprehensive of at first. This seemed like a game that might be too cutesy for me. I’m really glad I was wrong.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a cooperative adventure shooter in which the best way to play is with friends. The game only employs local co-operative play so they’ll actually have to be present, but that’s half the fun! Taking up a single Joy-Con, or a controller of your choice should they be available, you’ll take on one of four possible explorers as your own; using them to work the various bits of your ship.
To actually work those bits you have to man your station, so it’s a game that’s also about being where you need to be. For example, there are four gun stations on your first ship – meaning there are four locations you’ll need to utilize just to defend your ship. Those guns have limited angular range after all (your spaceship is in the way), and enemies will come from all directions.
Aside from the four gun stations there’s also a cannon style gun that rotates about the perimeter of the ship, a shield station to move a force field that only covers about an eighth of the perimeter, a map station to check on your location and points of interest, and a cockpit for steering the ship. All of these can be upgraded with different crystals you’ll pick up on your journey, and you can augment their abilities as you see fit. You’ll even get a tool to remove crystals during the re-supply between levels, so the possibilities are endless.
You may have noticed by this point that there are way more than four stations – and as such, the game comes down to a lot of cooperation and flexibility. Each player will need to move to where they need to be on the fly, and work together to get things done such that you and your friends aren’t fighting over stations while being shot at. It’s a delicate balance, and it’s one you’ll need to maintain.
As for the actual gameplay, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime will have you searching the cosmos – finding the cosmic space-bunnies scattered about in order to unlock different portals and get to the reactor pieces. You’ll move about in your ship, encounter and engage with enemies, take on bosses, and maneuver through physical puzzles on the way; running though over twenty levels, and across four parts of space (plus a tutorial).
In total the game includes over five hours of content just to get to the end of the story, and that’s not getting all the bits in-between. There are 160 bunnies to collect, and I only managed about 100 on my play-through (most levels only need five to beat) – so there’ll be plenty left to accomplish even once you reach the end. After all, the bunnies unlock additional functions and ships you’ll probably want to play with. 😉
Speaking of reaching the end, it should absolutely be noted that while friends aren’t needed to beat the game they are recommended. Playing alone means only getting a single helper (a space pet you control with X and a directional command) – so not only will you have to deal with more at one time, you’ll be doing so on two fronts. It’s definitely not conducive to ideal winning conditions, that’s for sure.
Thankfully, there are four difficulties to play on; beginner, casual, normal, and veteran. The difficulty seems to effect how dangerous the enemies are, and how much health you have – with only normal and above keeping your time records. It’s something worth noting should you be looking to compete with someone or beat your own times, as they simply won’t be saved on the lower difficulties.
In the vein of difficulty, it’s also important to note that this is a very easy game to pick up mechanics-wise. B is jump, Y is action, the analog stick or directional buttons move whatever it is you’re controlling, and you use X to command your space pet if you’re alone. That’s pretty much all you have to know, so it’s very simple to get a fresh player to join in and make things easier – and you’ll definitely want to do that should someone be available.
Graphically, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a colourful and crisp affair – but it also suffers a tad from being simple. There are small details, but they’re all cosmetic and you’ll be finding yourself in very similar looking surroundings a lot of the time. Thankfully, due to the somewhat frantic and action packed nature of the game, it’s a game where you won’t notice something like that too much. It also seems pretty solid performance wise, so that’s a plus. I’ll take performance over flash any day.
In the audio department, the game is very well equipped. Sound effects are well executed and quite varied – depending on the situation. The music is interesting, and offers a quality soundtrack which serves to both pump you up and set the atmosphere without being too intrusive. Once again, the game rides a delicate balance here – and it works very well.
While I’ve talked a few times about delicate balances being struck in Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, it’s clear to me that the game sits clearly on the side of great game – opting not to ride any sort of line in its whole, and instead going for so far North of the line that it can’t even see it from where it sits. Whether alone or with friends, it’s captivating and unique. Whether a pro gamer or a “filthy causal,” it offers a wide range of difficulty in order to ensure you get a challenge.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is simply a unique take on co-op that works whatever your approach, though I think it’s best when played with a full group of friends. Everyone I played it with enjoyed it, and their video game prowess ranged heavily; that’s a sure sign of a good game to me.
Plus, it’s very cute!