Review / Evasive Space

Evasive Space is retro. It’s retro in its controls, it’s retro in its gameplay, it’s retro in its level sizes and it’s retro in its difficulty. Now for most gamers the term retro has positive connotations, but we forget that often things that are old aren’t always good. Evasive Space, which was released a few weeks ago over WiiWare, presents what could basically be called an updated classic space arcade game in which the player takes on the role of a small spaceship with handling that is little better than the small triangle spaceship in Asteroids. You know, the kind of controls that send you veering off in directions you don’t want to go because there is no gravity around to make you slow down, and as you desperately try to turn away from the oncoming asteroid you find your momentum is too great and soon you will blow up into a bunch of smaller pixels.

Of course in a game like this mastering the loose controls is what it is all about. Steering your way through tight tunnels and around flying asteroids wouldn’t be challenging if you didn’t slip and slide all over the place. It’s a basic, straightforward style of gameplay that would have been just as easily handled on the NES as it is on the Wii. Don’t worry, it has up to date graphics and modernized Wii controls, it’s just the gameplay and design that is so incredibly old school. So how does this old school game stand up in the world of the new school Wii? Is it a bit of glorious past brought into the present or is it a bone the dog dug up that was better left buried? Read on to find out.

Though the story in Evasive Space is about as fleshed out as most stories from back in the day, there is actually one. In fact in between each chapter we’re given a little excuse as to why we’re flying around a new treacherous zone. There’s even a bit of character development between the ship’s computer and Kanaki, the player’s character who is flying the ship. While the writing is nothing fabulous it does set up the goals as trying to collect some strange energy orbs hidden in each labyrinth level in order to save the universe from the evil Dr. Dark Matter. No, I am not making that name up. Like I said, there is a bit of cleverness hiding behind the game’s simple format.

The game has four chapters (five if you include the tutorial) which each unfold in a series of levels. There are three types of levels. The first is a maze type level, where the player is usually tasked with moving around tight spots in a set amount of time in order to reach a goal. Of course the levels get a bit more complicated than that, but that is the basic gist. The second type of level is more open, where the player’s ship is flying around a nebula in a circle and the player must collect energy capsules in order to complete the level. Again a time limit is given and of course there are obstacles to avoid while circling the nebula. The final type of level is an open one where the player is tasked with rescuing spacemen, spaceships and other things floating in space. In this case asteroids hurdle around the screen as the player flies around the area. The levels offer a good amount of variety, especially the cave ones, but can get a bit repetitive depending on the player’s skill level.

That skill level would have to be a high one. Evasive Space gets pretty challenging as it progresses and while the controls seem easily mastered they are not. Players control the ship by pointing at the screen with the Wii remote and pressing B. The A button activates a shield which is gained through upgrades. Wherever the pointer is on the screen the ship will head there using its rockets. Sounds easy, but it gets difficult. Add to this the fact that it takes a while to get used to the idea of having your ship go wherever you’re looking and you have a game that can start off pretty aggravating, but once mastered is very rewarding. As mentioned before the ship can receive upgrades by picking up power nodes that are scattered in the levels. These upgrades help make Kanaki’s ship a whole lot easier to navigate. Especially useful is the first upgrade which is the aforementioned shield that protects you from getting hit.

Getting hit doesn’t kill you or anything, though. It just shakes you up for about two seconds. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realize you’re racing the clock in most of these levels. Whether the goal is to reach the power orb or collect a certain number of objects you’ll be in a rush to do it. Strangely the clock doesn’t count down, but upwards meaning you have to pause the game, see the goal time and do some tricky math if you really want to know how much time you have left. Not a terrible hindrance, but time counting down is so much more dramatic than time counting up. Once again, at first the allowed time seems impossible, but once you’ve mastered the controls and figured out the best routes to pick up more time via floating time bonuses it becomes far more manageable.

In fact once you’ve got the controls down and a good amount of power-ups the game becomes a little too manageable. The four chapter game never really ramps up the challenge as you progress. Levels get a little harder, but since you’re getting better at playing they actually seem to get easier. The briefness of each level, and the game in general, does not help this factor at all. Once I was good enough I was pretty much tearing through the levels and left with nothing to do afterward except jump into multiplayer or try to beat the online records (I’m holding number 1 on a few levels at the moment without even trying, so if you want some bragging rights this might be a good game to jump on).

The multiplayer is not online and offers a decent amount of distraction from the regular game, but nothing I would be calling my friends over to come play. It, much like the game itself, lasted about two seconds in the entertainment department and then was shuffled to the side in order to play more of the single-player’s maze levels. See the maze levels are fun to play over and over again, and luckily the developers allowed you to choose what levels to play after you’ve beaten them. Outside of the maze levels the replay value plummets, especially since the music can get on your nerves very easily. Still, mastering the best path through one of the caverns can be really tricky and fun, especially if you avoid getting upgrades throughout the game.

Evasive Space is a very interesting effort to bring some old school gameplay to the new Wii controls. If this game had launched on any other system it would be far worse, but the point and move controls make it far more fun to play than it should be and incredibly easy to pick-up. If there had been just a bit more to the game then it would have stood out so much better. As it is, Evasive Space is a fun distraction for a few hours, but might not see much play after that.

+

  • Old school gameplay
  • Challenging
  • Great use of the Wii’s controls

  • Too short
  • Challenge can be lost pretty quickly
  • Unless you’re into beating high scores the replay value is low
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