The Ardor Reactor is in tatters, the galaxy is filled with the powers of Anti-Love, and your fellow space-goers are imprisoned. Space can be a lonely place. But you’re not alone.
Asteroid Base’s second game, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, was originally released on PC in September 2015, but now that it has come to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, does it fare well on the home consoles?
As a title that was bred to excel as a couch cooperative game, Lovers is right at home with two wireless gamepads and a big-screen. The Gumball-Zero, your starting ship, is a vessel of ladders and compartments with various stations for a shield, five cannons (including a superpowered Yamato Cannon), a map, and directional thrusters. It’s crucial that both players adopt multiple roles in the managing of this ship through 16 levels of spacetime chaos to bring harmony back to the galaxy.
For the purposes of this review, almost the entire game was played cooperatively. However, it should be noted here that this game can be played solo. Taking a space-pet to be the AI partner is a reasonable option, but it takes away the heart of what makes Lovers special. With the dawn of network connectivity, the couch co-op scene has dissipated. There are only a few titles that allow gamers to play side-by-side, but everyone’s focus is always with online connectivity. Even fewer titles dedicate the entirety of their gameplay to experiencing it with a friend, or a lover if you so choose. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is meant to be played with someone else, so get that person into the same room and save the galaxy together, especially since you cannot play this game over a network connection.
Each of Lovers’ levels consist of freeing at least five space-friends, who can range from space-bunnies to space-cats, then fighting towards the heavily fortified wormhole to escape the sector. However, the game also rewards players for spending more time in each level, saving a maximum of 10 friends who will then contribute to making permanent upgrades to your ship, or scouring the area for gems to adhere to your ship’s controls for powerful upgrades that only last for the length of one of the game’s four campaigns.
Although these gem upgrades are temporary, they allow for a meaty level of customization that is crucial to completing the game. Power, Beam, and Metal gems each have their own abilities for players to learn and build preferences toward. Once you’ve unlocked the ability to place multiple gems on your stations, your ship can become even more powerful as you experiment with the different possible combinations.
Additionally, once you’ve progressed far enough into the game, customization comes in the form of different starting ships. While the different ships create clever challenges, and can offer considerable rewards, we never found that they were better than the Gumball Zero, so there was hardly reason to stray from our loyalty to that ship. Unlocking a new ship was an element that seemed exciting at first, but it never seemed good enough and only became a hurdle before unlocking the next set of upgrades.
To ignore the attention paid to Lovers’ charm would be a disservice. The art-style is adorable and the story, while minimal, fits the mood perfectly. Approaching caged spacenauts crying for help and listening to their joyful exclamations when freed is oddly satisfying. With all of its lovingly adorned details (and sometimes badass weaponry) you’ll never forget that you are members of the League Of Very Empathetic Rescue Spacenauts.
Many may be surprised that the game does not feature the song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” originally written and performed by Bruce Cockburn and more recently covered by Barenaked Ladies. However, the game’s soundtrack matches the fun, cute tone set by character, Dr. Hopsy-Flopsy, and playable characters Lover Mu, Lover Nu, and Lover Upsilon, among others who are unlockable. I dare you to listen to it without excitedly bouncing.
Slight joking aside (slight!), Asteroid Base has developed a game that runs flawlessly. Throughout our entire eight hour playthrough, we didn’t encounter even a hiccup in performance. The game may not appear to demand much from its platforms, but some fights can get a little frantic and the framerate never even hints at slowing.
While Lovers has an undeniable level of charm, it is still a regularly challenging experience. Hoards of enemies constantly assail your ship from all angles, and if you’re not a crew who can communicate well, you may be in for a rocky ride. Players may sometimes feel tempted to blame the person they’re sitting next to for not performing optimally in a dire situation. If you’re not a gamer who can take criticism or establish and stick to a plan with someone else, this may not be the game for you. Then again, if you’ve got just the right partner to go traversing the galaxy with, you may have nothing to fear. I’m not implying that Lovers will challenge your friendships, but it will not be an enjoyable experience with the wrong co-pilot.
The game allows you to choose from three difficulty options (Easy, Normal, Hard), but the level of challenge you desire seems to be the only measurable difference. There aren’t even any difficulty achievements. Hopefully, you find the option that’s right for you, but keep in mind the person you’re playing with. If either of you are inexperienced gamers, Hard, or even Normal modes may be too much when the game’s difficulty spikes toward the end. Boss battles and some of the title’s levels with alternate game modes may require that you bump the difficulty down. Don’t let the aesthetic fool you, the galaxy truly is a dangerous place.
The Verdict: 8.5 out of 10
Lovers in a Dangerous Timespace is a game dedicated to preserving a time before network connections, and developer Asteroid Base should be rewarded for it. If you’ve got a friend or a partner you’re looking to spend a little game time with, then the $15.00 price tag should hardly prevent you from saving the space-bunnies. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it might not be the right game for everyone, experienced gamer or not.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Special thanks to Asteroid Base for the PlayStation 4 code used to review Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime.
Jordan Loeffler is Editor in Chief for MONG who drives a 2006 Pontiac Vibe with Minnesota license plates even though he lives in Portland, OR. She’s seafoam green, and she drives like a wave. You can also follow him on IGN and on Twitter.