Douglas Adams once wrote, ‘Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is.’ He had a point, because just past our atmosphere is a place where so many things remain undiscovered. It took Voyager 1 over 35 years to get from Earth to the very edge of our solar system and into interstellar space. Three and a half decades, and though scientists discovered so much more about the universe in that time, its probably a fraction of a fraction of a percent compared to what still lies hidden.
Amazing Discoveries In Outer Space by Cosmic Picnic is a roguelike space sim and platformer that has players flying around different systems and, well, discovering the secrets of the universe. The backdrop is that the player must guide the astronaut and the ship home. Helping you on your way is the ships onboard navigational computer, ZING, which needs to travel around space to get its bearings so that a way back can be found. The only problem is that fuel is short and piloting a ship is quite challenging.
You begin in a relatively calm area to learn the basics of flight and how to conserve fuel, as well as finding this precious resource. If you run out of fuel during your journey, that’s game over, so you head out to planets, to land and search for fuel and other discoveries which you need to make to progress. Each system requires that you meet a certain score before you can move on, as you hunt for meteor types, creatures, crates and other ships or satellites.
Satellites and space stations can be another good source of fuel, if you latch onto them with tow cables. You need to send your astronaut out to land on these objects and repair them, just to siphon off the fuel.
Running empty isn’t the only threat because in addition to being big, space is really dangerous. When you’re floating through the cosmos you need to adjust your ships trajectory by carefully managing your direction and momentum, until you’re lined up to land on a planet, which is helpfully illustrated when a grey silhouette of the planet appears.
That doesn’t mean you’re safe though as an errant meteor could hit your ship at speed, causing it to either fly off path or get destroyed. Even if there is no space debris, you still need to be wary of your approach to the planet, and what kind of planet you’re landing on. Go in too fast and you’ll explode on the planet’s surface. If a planet is circling close to its star then then surface temperatures could compromise both the ship and the astronaut.
Some planets are harmless and allow the astronaut to explore without danger, but others can be death traps. In some cases you might fail to make the jump with the astronaut and land in a pit of spikes, which don’t instantly kill you but will quickly deplete your health. You can take control of the ship at this point and fly to rescue the astronaut, though you’ll always be looking at your fuel count. Even if you save the astronaut you’ll then need to heal them, and that costs fuel. The ship may have taken damage on the journey and needs to be repaired, which costs yet more fuel. You’re constantly having to make decisions like not fully exploring a system once hitting the point target to save resources.
While the Amazing Discoveries In Outer Space looks like an innocent enough game, it is a tough nut to crack. You will fail often on the journey home for any number of reasons. Luckily, by managing to travel a certain number of light years you open up shortcuts, which can then be used as new starting points, at the cost of being excluded from the game’s leaderboards. You can also unlock other ships that can take more punishment, allowing it to contend with asteroid fields.
The main problem is that the game can start to feel very repetitive. Each system asks you to do the essentially the same thing; explore system, make discoveries, find fuel, jump to the next system, repeat. I do like the challenge of piloting the ship through different sections of space and learning to control it, but the discoveries aren’t as amazing as they could be, and the planet types don’t vary that much either.
Amazing Discoveries In Outer Space is a game that takes no prisoners. You need to be aware of everything to ensure survival, from not using too much fuel to deciding which planet could be worth landing on. While the design of the game is good and there is fun to be had, it comes at the cost of a lot of repetition. There are a couple of things thrown in to mix it up and keep you on your toes, but even those are limited and can’t stave off that fact for long. Cosmic Picnic have created a good game and if you like tough roguelikes then you’ll have some fun with this.