In the realm of 3D space shooters, Galaxy On Fire and Star Pagga have long been the app store’s standard bearers. Galaxy On Fire offers an expansive, free-roaming universe, a rich character-driven narrative, lots of ship customization, a system of trade and more. Lacking so many RPG elements, Star Pagga is a streamlined space shooter focused on action, with tight controls and interface, customizable ships and a robust multiplayer mode. Black Space, a new 3D space shooter from Xanist Software, does little to alter the status quo.
Black Space is a straight-up shooter, without RPG elements of any kind. As an Alliance pilot, you fight against the evil Terran Hegemony in 14 missions of progressively increasing difficulty.
Four ships are available to the player, rated in speed, armor and shields, and with a varying number of hardpoints for weaponry. Speed ratings amongst the four are similar enough to be negligible, while the Raptor and Aeon are vastly inferior in armor, shields and payload. Meanwhile, both the Phoenix and Wraith are nearly maxed out in all areas, and each have four hardpoints, making them nearly identical. Xanist seems to have missed the point in offering a selection, as the player never really needs to make a trade-off in selecting one ship over another.
One of four different weapon types may be assigned to each hardpoint: minigun, laser, plasma or particle. Like weapons fire together, so you cannot simultaneously fire a laser and minigun; you must cycle between them. The minigun has the best rate of fire, while the others are relatively slow, and so it’s all I ever used. Mounting four miniguns drained a lot of power, but inflicted plenty of damage, and I found that my weapons usually recharged enough between salvos that the consumption rate wasn’t a bother. More conservative players might mount two miniguns to keep power consumption to a minimum.
The flow of the game never really changes from mission to mission. You leave the hangar, fly to a nav point and battle enemy fighters. You then proceed to the next nav point and battle more fighters. Repeat this process until the mission ends. There’s an Auto button that allows you to skip the downtime between nav points, allowing you to jump into the thick of the action.
Ship Designs: The ships, when you’re close enough to see them, are pretty cool looking.
Music: Black Space kicks out some good tunes while you play. The electronic soundtrack is energetic and cool.
HUD: Put nicely, the heads-up-display is somewhat lacking in elegance. Put not nicely, the interface is frakkin’ ugly. Rendered in hard shades of blue, green and red, the game’s buttons, indicators and readouts make me feel like I’m playing a DOS game on an EGA monitor. And for all the kids too young to have ever seen an EGA monitor, it was a 16-color display that was at one time state-of-the-art, but never managed to not be ugly.
Sound Effects: There’s no sense of distance applied to sound effects. One of your wing-men firing on an enemy two klicks away is equally loud as the wing-man beside you, firing on your same target. Not such a big deal in the heat of battle, but when you’re flying in a straight line trying to close several kilometers to engage your next target, that two minutes of constant laser fire in your ear while you traverse the distance gets pretty annoying.
Repetitive / Lacking Difficulty: Three missions in, seeing nothing but the butt-end of enemy fighters, I was beginning to wonder whether the enemies would ever shoot back. When they finally did start shooting at me, I still didn’t find the game very difficult. The stages didn’t seem to become more difficult, so much as they just seemed to get longer. Hegemony ships continued to attack in small groups; there were just more groups to kill before the mission would end.
Black Space is exactly what you’d expect a 3D space shooter to be, and nothing more. For the most part, it plays by the numbers and amounts to a competent space shooter, but never excels at anything. It gives you a selection of ships and weapons, but they all feel the same in the end. There are fourteen missions adding up to several hours of gameplay, but they’re repetitive and all feel the same. To be honest, by the time I made it halfway through the game, I was too bored with it to continue.
Ultimately, Black Space is a fair title, but not up to snuff with either Galaxy On Fire or Star Pagga. If you’ve already completed those titles and you’re looking for something new, Black Space may be worth your time.