What I've Been Playing: Space Run

So, as part of my ongoing quest to actually play all the games I pick up on Steam sales, I took Space Run out for a spin. The official blurb is kind of weird, so I'll put it in context - it's a sibling of FTL: Faster Than Light, but goes it's own way.

Both games center around you and your spaceship. The meat of the game is the real-time management of your ship to deal with threats, with the breaks in between dedicated to repairs and upgrades. FTL has you managing a crew, sending them to various stations and what-not, while Space Run focuses more on components -adding equipment, using special abilities, adjusting firing arcs, and so on. The graphics are fairly simple in both, you have a top-down perspective, and while Space Run has voice acting, it's very simple and broad.

Where they diverge is what they wrap this basic "don't die" mechanic in. FTL is often called a "rogue-like", which really means that the events are procedurally generated. So the placement of upgrades and enemies and rewards changes every time you play. (Personally, I call this the "losing is fun" genre, because Rogue and Nethack and it's kin are a bit more specific than just the random elements. But I don't get paid to name these things). The crux is that your success at FTL is very reliant on the random number generator (and how willing you are to bet that the numbers will go your way).

Space Run, on the other hand, calls itself a "tower defense" game. And this is a weirder reference than rogue-like, since a tower defense game generally means you work with a static map and construct defenses to stop the bad guys from crossing the board. This is inverted here - you're the moving part, and you need to get to the other end of the map as quickly as possible, while things like rocks and other ships try to stop or slow you down. Losing too much cargo or not getting there fast enough fails the level. Going especially fast gets you extras. You unlock parts to go faster and shoot further, and finishing missions unlocks more missions.

I really don't think "tower defense" is the right term - Super Mario World (or Super Mario 64) comes to mind as a similar concept. You do a level, it unlocks more levels. You unlock new tricks and toys (colored blocks, hats, whatnot), which lets you get more things on older levels.

Sadly, the part where the game reminds me most of tower defense is when it starts handicapping you. The cargo starts becoming weird sizes, the VIP Travel folks want to be mounted to the outside of the ship (y'know, where the guns and engines need to go), and so on. And like most TD games, you cross the line between "difficult" and "just plain annoying", which for me was about 4 hours in. I'm still poking at it, but I find after a mission or two I need to take a rage-break.