In this review we look at the indie game Space Smuggler by Pandula Péter. Pandula is currently at university studying Telecommunications and Information Technology and is making games as a hobby (makes me wish I was that good at my hobbies).
Space Smuggler reminds me of old style Flash games more than the kind of games we have been spoilt with on Android nowadays, but please keep it in context in terms of how and where it has been developed.
Pandula submitted the Windows version of this game into the 2014 Indie Game Development Contest, winners will be announced at the end of August.
You play as a smuggler trying to escape from the law while also attempting to remove your identity from all legal records. The story is about 40 minutes long with a nice twist which I obviously won’t spoil for you here. There are 16 different planets to fly to with 8 planetside missions.
Gameplay is split up into two distinct styles, space side and planetside. Space battles remind me of R-Type in which you avoid hitting asteroids while destroying law enforcement ships. You have limited energy but destroyed ships will drop energy and credits. On top of energy they can also drop 3 different upgrades. Green energy will make you invulnerable for a few seconds, yellow will make your guns fire in three directions and finally red overcharges your guns and keeps them firing for a while. All of these can be combined together allowing some epic devastation.
The other missions are planetside and they have you shooting and jumping your way to complete the assigned objective. I personally found that this can be a bit tricky due to the controls of the game. The left hand side of the screen is for moving and jumping and the right for aiming and shooting. Shooting works well but movement not so much as you cannot turn around. Timing your jetpack jumps takes a fair bit of getting used to as well.
Once you have finished the story mode you unlock endless mode. This is where the replayability of the game kicks in as you try to beat your own and your friends scores on the leaderboards. Endless mode uses the space battle part of the game in which you try to stay alive for as long as possible while collecting credits. After about the 2000 credit mark this becomes extremely hard: at the time of writing only one other person has managed to get over 3000.
I was very pleasantly surprised to see full Google Play service integration into an indie game. Some big studios are still missing this from games, so if an indie hobbyist developer can manage it I do wonder what is stopping them. Alongside the leaderboards I’ve already mentioned endless mode it also has 13 achievements to unlock as well. 11 of these are in game achievements, 1 for endless mode and a cheeky one worth 20,000xp called “The Patron” for donating £1.50 to remove adverts (adverts are very rare).
As with all games this one isn’t perfect and I can think of a few straight forward improvements that would enhance the overall polish and quality of the product. Firstly Pandula should team up with a graphics designer to give it a more polished look as it does still retain that Flash feel and thusly looks rather outdated next to many of it’s Android brethren. Secondly I would like to see a change in the movement controls a bit to give it a more fluid feel. Finally a few more ship upgrades or even different ships would add some more variety and replayability to the mix. At the moment the ship has two upgrades and you can alter it’s colours, but that’s about it. It would be nice if the credits earned in endless mode could be spent on the ship that not only improves it but also changes it looks.
This may be far from a game changer but its a very enjoyable game that with more time and help could be the building blocks for a much better game. Even if that never happens its worth keeping an eye on Pandula Péter as I can see him coming up with some interesting releases in the future.
If you want to see a bit of game play before downloading check out this YouTube video.
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