Review: ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime’

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Act as pilot, gunner and shield operator. Defeat bosses. Open warp gates. And collect… space bunnies?

If that premise sounds ridiculous to you it’s because it is, but the co-op gameplay that surrounds it holds up pretty well.

Teaming up with a partner on the couch (no online play in this game), or a trusty animal AI friend responding to commands, the core gameplay of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime has players rushing to rooms of their circular 2D spaceship, each one allowing control over a different part of the ship. The default ship includes four turret rooms, a station for you to rotate your shield around the ship, a slowly-recharging and easily forgettable super-weapon, a map and a pilot’s seat.

Steering your ship is a must, so most of the time one player has to control everything else.

Steering your ship is a must, so most of the time one player has to control everything else.

 

Only being able to use two of these devices at once forces both players to think strategically. Each player needs to constantly look out for where they can best be used. When playing by oneself, the player has the ability to control which room their companion stations itself in by bringing up a selection wheel and slowing the action with the press of a button. Being able to have one mind controlling everything helps with coordination, but the AI partner is unrealistically good at things like aiming, and frustratingly bad at things like figuring out who the best enemy to shoot first is.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime took me fewer than six hours to complete, but the individual levels take so long, and the core gameplay gets so repetitive, that I found myself rushing for the exit of each level the moment it opened. This could be fixed if there were a way to save the game midway through a level in order to take a break, but that feature is absent here. Another major gripe with the core gameplay comes from the need to constantly move the ship in order to complete most levels. I found this led to one player having the singular job of steering the ship while the other player takes control of the other aspects of the ship, lending to the feeling of repetition. Lovers is actually at its best during sections that didn’t require piloting the ship. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.

Some saving grace for the core gameplay comes from unlockable ships, which mix up room placement, the number of guns, terrain damage and how you steer the ship. It takes an incredibly long time to unlock any of these ships, though, and by the time I unlocked the first one I was 3/4 of the way through the game. Before this, the only changes to gameplay come with parts upgrades, allowing the ship to become more powerful in creative ways like turning a turret into a flail or the ship’s super weapon into a saw blade. Slowly doling out these upgrades over the course of the game allows the player to feel a sense of accomplishment and improvement as they make their way to each of the four boss battles.

Combining different upgrade types allows for some cool combination weapons.

Combining different upgrade types allows for some cool and creative combination weapons.

Spikes in the game’s difficulty, often occurring during these boss battles, contribute to frustration at the game’s lack of a mid-level saving option. Some levels were so hard to complete even on normal difficulty that I had to switch to easy at times, which still didn’t feel “easy.” This tends to lead to frustration, either at your co-op partner, yourself or your AI companion.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime brings a lot of unique ideas to the table, and executes well on most of them. Unfortunately, the core gameplay becomes tedious by the end of most levels and sharp difficulty curves make parts of the game very frustrating.

 

Score: 7/10

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