Game: Space Scavenger
Genre: Action, Arcade, Roguelike
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam)
Developers | Publishers: Red Cabin Games
Age Rating: US Everyone | EU 3+
Price: UK £11.69 | US $12.99 | EU € 12,99
Release Date: August 20th, 2021
Review code used, with many thanks to Red Cabin Games!
A key feature in Space Scavenger—and the most fun—is rebuilding your ship on-the-go, even mid-combat. So if that laser sword isn’t working out, just pause the game and swap it out for a hailstorm cannon.
In this roguelike shoot-em-up, the goal is to clear each level by wiping out aliens and, hopefully, warp home. You’ll need to build a tougher, badder ship. A bit of that depends on luck. The rest of it depends on skill. But even if you’re short on both, you might still enjoy Space Scavenger.
The Evolution of a Cube
You begin as a humble cube, armed with a mid-range zappy gun. You zap bug-like aliens, you zap asteroids for crystals.
The weapons and components that appear each run are randomized. You find these by scanning planets, shooting wreckage, or perusing the Shop that appears every few levels.
At the unexplained intergalactic Shop, you buy meaner weapons, enhancements, or health repairs. But just as cash is limited, so is space. Your cube only accommodates up to four new components, though beam components (girders that increase max health) allow further attachments.
New “body” cubes also increase your ship’s size and capacity for new attachments. On the downside, growing bigger also means there’s more surface area for enemies to fire at or ram into!
Extra components can be stored in cargo space, also very limited, or simply recycled for spare cash. The fact that recycling, like rebuilding your ship, can be done at any time is elegant and incredibly convenient.
Beyond Basic Flight
Going back to rebuilding: it’s so core to the game that the Switch’s “A” button is dedicated to it. Hit “A” any time to enter “build mode.” The flow of time is paused or, rather, slowed down so you can tinker on your ship at leisure.
It’s also a good time to decide which weapons to assign to your two trigger buttons. You can shuffle through these weapons mid-combat, but that I find that distracting. Unfortunately, no matter how many weapons you stick on that ship, you can only fire two types—the ones currently assigned to a trigger button.
Another unfortunate thing about controls is that the ship is a little hard to pilot, thanks to the physics engine. I wouldn’t call it a flaw so much as a challenge for the less nimble. After hours of playing, I still struggle to consistently aim my ship in the right direction, while simultaneously thrusting in the right direction. Usually I’m trying to fire and flee at the same time, you see, all while being mindful of momentum! Regardless, it’s not a reason to shy away from Space Scavenger. This piloting challenge is one to relish.
I should emphasize the word “challenge.” It’s a tough game, at least for me. Some combat veterans will find the game easy-breezy and clear all four worlds—each containing four levels, I think—in just a few days.
But having no delusions about my real-time combat skills (don’t hire me as a starfighter pilot), I doubt I’ll beat the game. World 1 is easy enough, once you’ve got a little practice. But in World 2, the difficulty ramps up with status effects, terrain hazards, and trickier enemies.
Back to the Hangar
But even in defeat there’s consolation. First, you can “save to hangar” that ship you worked so hard to create (and is now blown up). The Hangar is a gallery for viewing pretty (or ugly) ships you’ve made. You can replay each ship once, which is a very cool feature. And that’s how you might build ships up into mammoths like the ones in the trailer.
Another consolation: The crystals you collect can also be used to buy new skins, like a Sweden-themed skin that turns your ship blue and yellow.
Hard as this game might be for casual players, it could still be fun to experience with your niece or nephew. If they don’t have the motor skills for it (heck, I don’t either), they could still help with modifying your ship. You could challenge yourself to play with the ship they’ve built, no matter how impractical, and have a good laugh together.
Space Scavenger is a neat little game, made by two guys in Sweden (Jacob Selg and Jonas Holgersson). I’m delighted by this simple but fun space shooter, even if victory lies beyond reach of my current skills. It’s nice to pick up for 30 minutes a day and see what motley ship configuration will emerge each run. Last but not least, Space Scavenger has a great soundtrack!
Putting the soundtrack, ship-building, and short but tough levels together: if you play in short bursts, it’s unexpectedly relaxing for a roguelike shoot-em-up.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot