On the surface, Space Scavenger looks like your run-of-the-mill rogue-like shooter. But uncovering some of the tiny oddities and eccentricities within may surprise your initial impressions. Space Scavenger is a top-down shmup that really doesn’t play as famously tight as most games in the genre. And this is a strength (and a bit of a weakness starting off) of the title. The game factors in anti-gravity, weight/propulsion, and orbital pull to consider as you maneuver your ship and scan new planets each level. If you play this game like you might any other SHMUP with quick button presses to microspace your ship, you will meet a rude awakening as the momentum of your moves will inevitably make you lose control and crash.
It is nearly impossible to stay still on your own in the game as the slow drift in space gently carries you about. You must consciously smooth your acceleration and control your momentum, which in a game that can require precise movement to corral hordes of enemies, can be extremely challenging at first. On the other hand, the game’s plethora of weapon upgrades and engine upgrades will help you become tanky, more agile, and more of a force to be reckoned with. A twist on the roguelike upgrade formula, not all bonuses are obviously good: you must leverage the placement of parts, how it affects the weight and build of your ship, and understand the direction your weapons/armor cover. Fortunately, the gameplay itself eases you in enough with not overly challenging objectives to allow you to learn the enemy types and understand the controls more intimately. I think I would recommend this much more wholeheartedly if the controller settings and other quality of life changes were tweaked a bit more, but at this point I have more good to say than bad.
Your runs in Space Scavenger are very linear: enter a level, scan planets by moving across the map and circling them, and KILL ALL ENEMIES on the map. Every few stages in between you are whisked to a special map to buy powerups or heal. The equipment you scavenge along the way can be stored and rearranged in a build menu – you can even recycle parts to save space or get scraps. The scraps can be used to buy the aforementioned, often rarer, armory pieces or health. That’s really all there is to it, but the intricacies in how the physics engine works paired with the ship engineering management and piloting adds all the nuance the game needs to be an easy to learn, hard to master experience. The format of the challenges lend themselves to quick pick up and play romps, and runs are relatively quick. As of writing, a new difficulty has been added, but I have yet to complete it. Nonetheless, I’m sure the balance will only improve as time comes and it helps the longevity of the game. The developers also promote challenge runs and fostering a healthy competitive offline environment for high score glory.
The too long, didn’t read version is: a bit of a headache starting off, but the experimentation and customization options being approachable and easily grokked help get you to the fun quickly. Not an instant recommendation to all players, but if you’re into the genre, definitely keep an eye out.
Space Scavenger is developed by Red Cabin Games
Available on Steam for $9.99
A review copy was provided by the devs
Hellfirebam has awarded Space Scavenger the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.