Developer: Pixelsaurus Games, Future Crayon
Publisher: Pixelsaurus Games
Genre: Arcade / Shooter / Strategy
Price: £10.99 / $14.99
Release Date: 27th March 2015
You’ve not truly felt panic until you’ve played Captain Forever Remix.
The radar blips as an enemy craft approaches, you recognise the colour of the pulse as that of a ship higher-leveled than your own. It’s fine though, your last fight left parts of the defeated nearby, waiting to be cannibalised. You’re desperately attaching lasers to fend them off and engines to propel your increasingly cumbersome frame when you spot a weakened structural piece on your broadside. You grab a section of framework undamaged by the conflict and detach the fragile piece to swap it out and everything falls to pieces. Quite literally. That lone segment was the glue keeping half your arsenal fixed to your central core and without it, most of your defenses are now spinning slowly away as the enemy gets ever closer. You have three seconds to reattach as many blocks as you can before they’re upon you.
You’ll have many of these moments while playing this updated version of the browser classic. Sometimes you’ll die from lack of familiarity with the mechanics like the scenario described above, other times you’ll underestimate an enemy and maneuver into a heavily-defended port side. Of course, there’s also the chance you’ll meet your end at the hand of the greatest enemy; sheer bad luck. Captain Forever expects you to love this though, as it’s another in the growing trend of punishing arcade experiences played in short, frenetic bursts where you cling to life at all times. Fortunately, it works well and these roguelike elements are exactly what drives you to succeed while the permanent features keep you motivated at the times when you’re less successful.
For those not familiar with Captain Forever or its ilk, this is a procedurally-generated space shooter with a heavy focus on strategic customisation mechanics. Your vessel is made of several single cells such as weapons, engines and core building blocks which can be combined in near infinite ways to produce some of the most bizarre and ill-advised spaceships. Every enemy is constructed in a similar fashion so, once defeated, they can be harvested for upgrades or replacements to damaged pieces. Very quickly you become something of a Frankenstein’s monster, with arms branching off in several directions launching super-heated death rays in every which way. There’s so much room for experimentation and failure as well, like inertia-affected missiles that often hit yourself as much as your foes if poorly placed. That’s absolutely part of the beauty of the game though; it’s like being a child again with a Lego space set totally unbound by the limits of your pocket money.
The imagery is heavily influenced by Saturday morning cartoons, with the storyline following two bored children playing pretend with a cosmic battle between them. Everything is bright neon and primary colours whilst the explosions are cartoon-like and overstated, it really suits a game that is all about exaggeration and craziness. It also serves as a visual indicator of the stats for each attachable object with graded colours displaying a rarity tier and the speed of which it flashes roughly showing how much health it has left. The blinking effect coursing through a heavily damaged spaceship can be quite distracting and panicking, but that’s an intentional side effect of knowing how quickly your end could be approaching.
Very recently, the developer added in a Sandbox mode which has increased the potential of the game massively. The ability to save recent spaceship setups for use in this mode rather than restarting entirely really exemplifies how Captain Forever is a fantastic game that can only improve with every update made. There’s already plenty to justify buying into one more Early Access title and I would have said the same had I reviewed this before last month’s update (April 2015). I don’t particularly like reviewing EA games while they’re still being developed, especially if doing so relies on speculating over something as intangible as potential but in this case, it’s so easy to recommend Captain Forever exactly as it stands now. Any future content coming is purely icing on a very delicious cake.