Often co-op comedy capers are designed around the idea of being easy to drop in and out of. Failing a level is funny and has zero consequence – you just hit restart. This is decided not the case in the 1-4 player co-op management game Spacelines from the Farout. Ever wanted some roguelike elements in your co-op? Then this could be your dream game.
Without wanting to say Overcooked and Shakes on a Plane combo – Spacelines from the Farout starts out as… Overcooked and Shakes on a Plane combo. You are workers for a new spaceport line and after you buy your first spaceship, you’ll be expected to navigate through space whilst making sure your passengers are happy. Passengers get hungry, bored and sick and you’ll need to cater to their needs. Cook and serve food from the laser oven, dance via a mini game or place seats and TVs in the ship to entertain them. Make sure the toilet and medbay can be installed and powered on for curing their ills. The difference here is that you carry your ship from level to level across an entire travelogue through space.
Each run is connected via around 15 levels and is procedurally generated. You earn money from the tickets you sell and your ship has damage and fuel to take care of. Crash into as asteroid? You’ll damage your ship and too much damage means it’s game over, or you’ll hit zero gravity and you’ll be floating slowly around to fix the wrench to fix things – all whilst your passengers give you thumbs down ratings. Lower ratings means lower ticket prices. That’s important because fuel costs cash and if you run out fuel, its game over too. This means you’ll be actively searching en route for fuel stops to top up your tanks alongside stations to take on more passengers, a cleaning service or a repair service.
Cash is also key for ship upgrades. There are 15 services in Spacelines From The Farout to potentially buy or upgrade. These have individual stats and perks but also power usage which comes from your main generator (also upgradeable). Often, you’ll have more services than power supply so you’ll actively need to plug and unplug services to make use of them. It took me a while to notice my toilet wasn’t switched on and I had to mop up all the sick myself! Your ship upgrades carry over all the levels in a run and stays for future runs until the ship is either sold off or explodes/runs out of fuel. Late game, meteors and fat asteroids are one hit kills so you might want to store money away in a bank so your entire run isn’t useless, or buy insurance to give you lives.
All of this adds palpable tension to the entire experience but it also comes at a potential cost. You’ll need your mates free for a good 2 hours for a full run. It also comes with frustration if you die through just one mistake after those 2 hours but that’s roguelikes for you. Oddly, Spacelines from the Farout tempers this with a lower difficulty for the general passenger support and ship repairs. That did make the game feel a little less time managementy and chaotic and perhaps at times, a little less engaging. Instead, it was the fear of losing your investment that kept things interesting.
Everyone who I played the game with generally agreed Spacelines felt significantly different from everything else in the co-op genre because of that roguelike investment in the ship. It’d have been great to have more wider growth beyond buying and upgrading the three ships. For instance, your airport hub doesn’t change. We also felt that the moment to moment gameplay elements were a little too easy to manage. Maybe we just had some lucky runs but each one felt just the right side of easy… so long as we prioritised fuel. Do that, and you’ve got yourselves a low key roguelike panic alongside some lighter management elements. Playing either solo, or locally/online/steam remote play with up to 3 friends also delightfully upped the ante too. The game feels quite well balanced to speed up services breaking down or passenger needs. Just don’t let the mad passengers start trashing your ship though!
What I would say is that if you want to pick up something that has zero consequences for your co-op carnage, Overcooked, Get Packed, Tools Up and Moving Out are probably better suited for your immediate needs. However, if you want your co-op gaming to have more weight to it and the stakes to be higher, Spacelines from the Farout is uniquely positioned to offer you something new.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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