I had the opportunity to visit Strawdog Studios andÂ have some hands-on time with their upcoming Xbox Live arcade game ‘Space Ark. It’s kind of a puzzle game based around a selection of small and rather fluffy looking intergalactic animals who have had their home destroyed by a massive black hole. It’s your job to guide them around the various planets and terraform them, creating an environment they can once again live in.
My mission was to bounce my arkonaut animalÂ into the air from the trampoline that I was controlling on the ground. Your trampoline can be moved with the analogue stick, while the directional pad chooses the trajectory of the animal. Getting the hang of it for the first time was a little strange, but satisfying, as I watched my animal bounce into the air. It takes a little getting used to, because one stick is controlling the trampoline, which is moved on the ground, and the pad is altering the direction you want to go in. So you have to split your mind a bit, in a similar way to Rubbing the tummy and patting the head at the same time.
It’s a bit of a juggling act, but once you get past the early teething problems, it’s a fantastic game. Each of the levels are scattered with DNA crystals for you to collect. Collecting more than three of the same colour will result in a combo, which will then produce fruit. The gorgeous fruit will increase your score multiplier and the larger that delicious combo is, the better the fruit you will be rewarded with and your multiplier gets higher. Each level requires you to collect all of the crystals before you are allowed to travel on to the next.
The levels are highly colourful and are delightful to the eye. If there was one thing I was going to take away from this experience, apart from the gameplay, was the fact that it was a beautiful and vibrant game. The graphics are stunning and well polished and I feel that the production level is quite high. Not only do we see the animals bouncing around, the levels are lit up with colourful rainbows that follow your cute animal around the screen.
Guiding your animal to collect the crystals is a little more strategic than you may initially think, as it all comes down to how they are collected. Some crystals are neatly lined up in rows, so grabbing them in one line rewards you with a better score. Some are scattered around, making you collect them in a curve. At the end of the day, it’s all about control, including how well you canÂ co-ordinate your trampoline below, whilst trying to guide your animal above.
Your high score is then uploaded to the leaderboard on Xbox Live, where you can see your friend’s scores and compare notes. Not only is the trampoline your method of bouncing your animal, it also has other uses within the game. For instance, at one point I could turn my trampoline into a weapon which allowed me to shoot crystals rather than bouncing my animal. Other times the trampoline could be transformed into a fruit vacuum that collects falling fruit. Once you have completed each level, crystals pop up and glitter, and the planet’s terraforming can begin.
Playing on multiplayer seemed even more fun, as I teamed up with Simon Morris (Technical Director) Here we both had our animals on the same screen, in a rather panoramic view.Play continues in the same way, but we could take each others fruit and crystals, followed by a rapid race to see who could make it to the exit bubble that opens up on the screen. We had absolutely hilarious fun on this level, because some of the time when you’re supposed to be concentrating on your animal, it’s very easy to get distracted by the other players animal.
I had chosen a turtle, of course, and many times my turtle had decided to get stuck up in the clouds or fall to his doom. If you miss your trampoline on the way back down, it’s goodbye Turtle. That happened a few times to begin with, but slowly, while I was getting to grips with the controls, I began to feel that I could quite easily get hooked on this game. It had an addictive feel about it. I like the idea of catapulting animals into the air. The fact that you have to collect items in this game is also a bonus because it makes you want to work harder to try and achieve a higher score and ultimately terrform the planet back to it’s original environment. This game is ideal for people that like to have a lot of fun and, topped with an adorable collection of fluffy arkonaut animals, you certainly have the perfect recipe for an Xbox Live Arcade game. It tests your precision, skills and patience, whilst showing a sense of humour, to bring you a lively and considerably fun game.
That’s one small step for a turtle and one giant leap for the arkonauts