Aug 7, 2013

[Games] rymdkapsel (Android)

There are some games that are just downright remarkable and it's hard to explain precisely why. Or they're just games that are hard to define - and I think rymdkapsel fits this mode really, really well. It has quickly become a game that I absolutely love even if I cannot pronounce its name.

I first found out about this game based on a friend's post on Google+ - and believe me, you can certainly get my attention with a game that was then described as a combination of Tetris, tower defense games and StarCraft. I mean seriously, wouldn't that kind of a description pique your curiosity? So I went for it despite it be a somewhat pricier game than what I'm willing to pays for in the mobile apps market.

But damn, the game is just amazing.

Based on the developer's website, rymdkapsel is described as "a slow, meditative strategy game set in space" - which is still a weird description, and this is considering that I've come to enjoy playing another meditative game, Color Zen. And I suppose some people may see it as being a meditative game, but once you're more than 30 minutes into it, I don't think you'll feel all that relaxed and calm. And that's not a bad thing at all.

The game costs about $3.99 and is available for Android, iOS and PlayStation Mobile.

The game puts you in charge of some sort of a space station, drawn in very clean yet simple 3D-like shapes. It's just floating there in the middle of no where and two white rectangles represent your first two minions. They will do everything in this game from harvesting resources, building structures and fighting the enemy. And yes, you have enemies - I did mention this is a tower defense game of sorts.

You will need to build out your base using the resources on-hand. Your structures are just different colored shapes - Tetris-style shapes in fact. Thus you must figure out the optimal configuration for your base such that you are able to harvest the resources you need, gather more minions to your cause, research the mysterious monoliths at the four corners of the map and survive the enemy hordes. And I agree with you, that doesn't sound simple at all.

Some may argue that the game feels like you need to micro-manage while the developers promise that you don't have to manage the details but instead focus on the bigger, more strategic picture. And I can see how both sides can be true.

The game allows you to do only two things: designate what structures you want to be built (as will be marked on the screen by the outline of your designated shape) or assign a minion to a role. At first you can only assign minions to work on Construction but later on the options include Engineering (speed up energy production), Food Services (harvest sludge to be converted into food that can be used to grow new minions or build structures), Defense (to fight the enemy!) and Research (to unlock the secrets of the monoliths). Given you only start with two minions, clearly your first priority after solidifying your resource base is to get more minions to serve you.

So you don't need to be the one to target the enemy in battle or anything like that - that's micromanaging right there. Instead you plan out your larger strategy for things and give your minions their general orders and hope they do well. And news flash - your minions are not very smart. Yet another factor in the game.

The game pretty much places you in the same stage every time - there may be more stages but I have not gotten that far. You also have an initial set of mission objectives to aim for like (1) research all monoliths, (2) survive 28 waves, and (3) research all monoliths in less than 45 minutes. Yes, 45 minutes is the speed game mark for this game.

I've played the game so many times and the experience is different each time. After all, you will be given a different arrangement of shapes that influence your rooms and your overall base design. You may try new strategies in terms of room placement or the order in which you research the monoliths (which each given power-ups like faster minions once researched). And with each wave of enemies coming along faster and with more enemy units, the tension can really build as you survive wave after wave after wave.

rymdkapsel is brilliant in its minimalism with a core gameplay concept that rivals "prettier" looking games on the PC and full game consoles. Don't be deceived - the game is wonderfully complex but not overly so and has tremendous replay value. And given how the game has a pretty great auto-save engine, you can quickly tuck it away as your boss comes in or your train arrives at your intended stop. But I must warn you, the game is a brilliant time-suck and you'll be surprised to note that an hour has passed and you're still starting at those little white rectangles dancing around your space station. The game just hooks you so well, and that's why it more than deserves a full 5 dastardly enemies swooping down on your little minions out of a possible 5.
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