Heavenly Bodies is funny yet frustrating, a game that deliberately makes simple tasks incredibly complex thanks to its clumsy controls. Think QWOP, Surgeon Simulator, Octodad, and similar bizarrely designed games.
Split between eight levels, Heavenly Bodies is best described as a physics-based puzzler that can be played solo though is best experienced in local co-op. As voiceless, faceless astronauts, you’ll perform various duties as you drift in zero gravity, repairing engines, fixing antennae, and transporting precious cargo.
As we’ve already mentioned, the game’s entire hook is its cumbersome controls. On a gamepad, you’ll use the sticks to move and triggers to grab with both hands while shoulder buttons can be held to raise your legs. Combining these basic movements, you’ll need to navigate the inside and exterior of your spaceship.
Getting to grips with Heavenly Bodies takes an awful amount of patience. Not only that, the unpredictable swinging and spinning of your ragdoll spaceman – combined with reorienting the camera – can be nauseating, especially if you’re stuck on a section and don’t know how to progress.
After all, this is primarily a puzzle solving game and one that doesn’t hold your hand the whole way through to the solutions. Each mission tosses you a handbook with a list of tasks and various engineer notes and diagrams. One of the best things about Heavenly Bodies is the amount of interaction you have with objects and your environment.
It’s not a particularly long game, our initial playthrough clocking in at around four hours. However, there are bonus challenges to complete, collectables to find, and a speedrun bug wanting to prey upon your perfectionist tendencies.
You might also want to dive back in with a new partner, or crank the difficulty up to Newtonian for a super-challenging experience. Speaking of difficulty options, there’s an assisted mode that greatly reduces the time and suffering required to perform basic tasks as it allows you to swim through space.
Again, there’s nothing stopping you from playing Heavenly Bodies from start to finish on your own, but this is clearly intended as an interstellar tango for two. Bringing a partner aboard dials up the fun factor, from the sense of reward for overcoming puzzles to the potential physics-based mayhem. Just bear in mind that while easy to pick up, Heavenly Bodies requires a certain mindset if you’re to become even marginally competent at playing.