Welcome to the wonderful XBLA game called â€˜Space Ark. Itâ€™s a kind of puzzle game based around a selection of small and rather fluffy looking intergalactic animals that have had their home destroyed by a massive black hole. Itâ€™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 animal into the air from the trampoline that I was controlling on the ground. Your trampoline can be moved with the left analogue stick, while the right stick 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 other 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.
Itâ€™s a bit of a juggling act, but once you get past the early teething problems, itâ€™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 game play, 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, itâ€™s all about control, including how well you can co-ordinate your trampoline below, whilst trying to guide your animal above.
Your high score is then uploaded to the leader board on Xbox Live, where you can see your friendâ€™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 planetâ€™s terraforming can begin.
The multiplayer mode is even more fun as the players are charged with gathering more DNA and fruit than their opposing player. You both play on the same screen andÂ gameplay continues in the same way as single player, but the opportunity to take each other’s fruit and crystals is there. Then there is a mad dash to see who reaches the exit first. This mode is a great deal of fun as it is easy to get distracted by what your opponent is doing.
Although it takes a while to get used to the controls, the game still manages to have an addictive quality. Catapaulting these fluffy little animals into the air is hilarious, and there is a great collection of animals to unlock by proceeding in the game. The levels require collecting a certain number of combo points for success, which makes the player think about how they are collecting the DNA crystals, not just how to get to them.
Space Ark tests your precision, skill and patience, whilst showing a sense of humour, to bring you a lively and considerably fun game. As you progress through the levels it does become increasingly harder, with the clouds being just out of reach from each other, making it hard sometimes to get the timing right and you have to be careful with the switches that activate certain colours of crystal, making for some strategic thinking if the combo requirement is to be reached.
Overall Space Ark is an excellent game that combines playability, longevity and fluffy, bouncing animals. This makes for a perfect XBLA game.
Thatâ€™s one small step for a turtle and one giant leap for the arkonauts