There’s a place deep in my psyche that responds with childlike glee at the sight of arcade shooters. Neon lights and pounding music remind me of standing in front of arcade cabinets, gleefully shoving in quarter after quarter as I got pummeled by pixelated threats. When I first saw the trailer for Curved Space I knew it was something I wanted to try. Unfortunately, despite it having all the hallmarks of a great arcade experience, Curved Space felt like it was lacking something.
Curved Space is an arcade twin stick shoot ‘em up with a twist: you pilot your craft along the surface of objects in a gravity defying way. Your goal is to shoot space spiders in a concept introduced in one of my favorite video game lines in recent memory: “We used to harvest energy, but that attracted the spiders. Now we harvest the spiders.” I mean, who wouldn’t love that? Unfortunately, Curved Space peaked within its first few seconds, because despite its thumping techno soundtrack and amusing narrative delivery, Curved Space just isn’t very fun.
A good arcade shoot ‘em up should be fast paced, and full of challenges—preferably sheets of projectiles with huge bosses waiting at the end. That’s all present in Curved Space, but it just never feels that fun to play. What makes controls feel tight, or gameplay compelling are concepts that are hard to quantify precisely. It’s not its difficulty level that’s the problem—and the game even allows you to adjust difficulty and add modifiers—it’s really just in how it all comes together. Its collection of weapon power-ups never really feels very fun or powerful to shoot, and even the act of gliding around to dodge projectiles doesn’t feel that fun. It does have an interesting variety of weaponry, however—with some weapons meeting their full potential when powered up, and old standards like shotgun-type spread weapons and railgun like sniper shots make an appearance. There is plenty of fighting to be had, and while bosses are huge and enemies are plenty, fighting space spiders just never ends up being very much fun.
There are a few ways you can played Curved Space: there’s a campaign mode where you take control of an energy harvester, fighting against the invading swarm of spiders. There’s also an arena mode where you complete various objects in an attempt to reach a high score. Survival and Endless are similar modes, with one requiring you to hold out against enemies until death, and the other requiring you to complete random objectives. There’s also a daily run—attempt to get a high score, but you only get one attempt.
Curved Space has so much going for it, but it just never clicked for me. I hope others play it, and love it. However, I just couldn’t find the fun. Despite its mix of interesting weaponry, and fast combat, everything felt flimsy and insubstantial. And while its anti-gravity premise is interesting, it never truly manifests in interesting encounters or fun level design.
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