Review: Spaceplan

By Mark Robinson 23 May 2017 6

Review: Spaceplan

Released 03 May 2017

Developer: Jake Hollands
Available from:
App Store
Google Play
Reviewed on: iPad Mini 2

I was tasked with playing Spaceplan, an idle or ‘clicker’ game made by Jake Hollands, for review for Pocket Tactics. SPOILER ALERT.

 

 

Friday

I download Spaceplan for my iPad.

 

<Loading ‘Advanced Robotics’ library>

<Failed>

<Loading ‘Distress Call’ Library>

<Failed> This is just silly.

<Loading ‘Potato’ library>

“Get us some more power please.”

Click click click.

SPACEPLAN pops up again.

1

“This is dumb”, I say to myself.

The Word Outputter asks me to build more things.

I tap the Kinetic Generator, an invitingly large white square a few times. I have collected 50 watts. In the Thing Maker I see ‘Repair Solar Panel’. I’m not sure what that means, but I tap it. Watts are now automatically generating – albeit very slowly.

“This is dumb.”

Soon I have 500 watts - ‘Clean Solar Panels’ pops up in the Idea Lister costing 140 watts. I tap it, now earning 3 watts every 10 seconds.

A slow pulsating beat begins to emerge from my headphones. Up till now, the obnoxious boot up (the game’s words, not mine) was the only sound I had noticed. It eventually breaks into a gentle electronic beat.

Tap tap tap.

The Thing Maker has a Potato I can build for 120 watts. I don’t question the science and proceed to build it. I decide to hammer the kinetic generator till I’m at 1000 watts. A Probetato appears in the Thing Maker for 680 watts.

“This is dumb”, I say to myself again, before building 4 more potatoes and an upgrade to the kinetic generator, meaning I get 3 extra watts every time I tap it.

I launch a Probetato towards the red planet I’m orbiting, presented as a small white square pixel floating around a giant red circle. The Probetato burns up upon entry, but the data is collected. I fire another one.

“Probe launched. Goodnight, sweet Potato.”

I grin. “What a dumb game.”

The Word Outputter decides to add a new entry to the Idea Lister: Probetato Foil. “Wrap them in foil to stop them burning. Perhaps add some Lea & Perrins?”

“What a dumb game”, I chuckle to myself.

Tap tap tap.

I proceed to spend an hour tapping the generator, building whatever the Idea Lister or Thing Maker presents. Everything is focused around potatoes. The grind is real, and I could leave the game to collect watts for me, but tapping the Kinetic Generator means I’m soon into 5 digits.

The music intensifies and the crescendos falls in line with each surge of tapping I muster. In the quiet moments it goes into space-ambience: cold, lonely, immersive.

It’s late and I have to get up early to catch the train tomorrow.

Saturday

6

I wake up at 7am and make my way down to the train station.

Tap tap tap.

In this time I’ve managed to destroy most of the solar system. The Word Outputter is trying to figure out why Earth has become a barren wasteland. Soon enough I’m firing potatoes into the sun attempting to create a black hole to reverse engineer time. A Matthew McConaughey reference is made, and I almost quit the game out of protest.

I can now use the System Peeker to see the entire Solar System – or what’s left of it, as the sun has engulfed all the planets. A ‘Planet Booster’ is attached to the side of ReEarth – a giant rocket attached to the side of the planet, preventing it from being swallowed up by the sun.

Eventually, the sun burns up. The Idea Lister shows a new option: ‘Approach Hole’ – it will cost 1 billion watts. Thankfully I’m now generating watts at a whopping 3,881,360 per second, so it doesn’t take long till I’ve hit the target number.

Things get weird. A window for the Unity game engine pops up, before some numbers start accelerating at an alarming rate. The Arrow of Time reverses, and we’re sent hurtling back to the year 2072.

I have no idea what just happened.

7

The screen returns back to normal. I’m disheartened, as I’m back at 0 watts, and all the Potato based I was using have now disappeared. In the Idea Lister, a single option exists: ‘Return to ReEarth’ – it requires 10 watts.

Tap tap tap.

I tap the option, curious to see what I’ll find on the surface.

The shuttle deploys; the tiny square meekly makes its way towards ReEarth.

As it lands my iPad crashes.

“Is that it?” I say to myself, standing in the train station, onlookers walking past wondering whom I’m talking to.

I wondered if the game intentionally boots you out at that point: Spaceplan – a quirky little indie game to kill 2 hours that leaves you with more questions than answers.

More likely, my iPad crashed trying to load up the next screen.

I quickly boot the game back up – I’m back at 0 watts; ‘Return to ReEarth’ sits to the right. My brain is trying to piece together how much of this is fourth-wall breaking and extremely convenient timing of my iPad crashing.

I select the option; the shuttle makes its way towards ReEarth. I wince with one eye as the shuttle makes contact with the surface while my other eye helps me to cross the road.

A cut scene occurs.

The rudimentary Atari 2600 aesthetic is gone. I’m in first-person mode, and there are actual shapes and polygons.

8

“This game is fucking amazing”.

I’m now sitting at the bus stop, but my bus never shows up - you get used to that with Irish public transport.

Tap tap tap.

I’m back at 0 watts. I should be livid that over a thousand taps have been for nothing – but there has been progress. Plus, the Word Outputter posts this:

9

I have to keep going. The time it takes to increase watt production feels a lot quicker now.

Tap tap tap.

The woman sat to the left of me thinks I’m mad. People come and go as their busses arrive - mine never shows up. My right arm has seized up from my elbow being locked up at a 90-degree angle. I tap with my left hand but dammit, I’m right handed and peak-tapping performance comes from that side.

I power through.

Tap tap tap.

I spend over two hours tapping the screen with no bus on the horizon. I build Potato Wedges, Spudalites, Potatanks. I upgrade my Kinetigen so I get 3 times the watts while I’m tapping. I’ve spent at least 4 fucking hours of my Saturday morning tapping the screen of my iPad.

Eventually, ‘Skip to Mars’ appears in the Idea Lister. ReEarth cracks open like a piñata, followed by a message from the Word Outputter.

10

This is it: crack open 4 planets. I’ll stop at this point and return to it tomorrow.

My bus finally arrives.

I get to my seat and quickly plug in my charger – I’m at 18%. Somewhere between getting on the bus and sitting down the game crashed.

It doesn’t load back up.

I turn my iPad off and turn it back on again.

Nothing.

I try again. Nothing.

“Fuck”

The game was gone. I slumped back in my chair, crestfallen.

I tried to explain the situation to my girlfriend when I finally arrive several hours late. She looks at me with utter bewilderment.

“There’s potatoes, and you fire them at the sun to create a black hole and reverse time.”

I realize it’s falling on deaf ears. I shut up and decide to enjoy the rest of the weekend. I predict I won’t come back to the game after such a crushing blow; the newly formed repetitive strain injury in my right arm was all for naught.

Sunday Morning

Tap tap tap.

Even with a fatal crash and not seeing the end sequence, Spaceplan has provided me with one of the most memorable experiences of the year so far from a genre I didn’t think was capable of such a feat.

Review: Spaceplan

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