Platformers and puzzle games draw a line not met by many other genres in the video game world. Both requiring precise and strategic thoughts and movements, while each provides a casual approach to the entertainment of gaming. The debut release from Gravity Whale Games, SpaceBOUND, gives new meaning to the term puzzle/platformer.
Players take control of two astronauts who have crash landed on an asteroid in the middle of deep space. Attached by a tether, both astronauts may be controlled separately by one player, or individually in cooperative mode. The idea is to navigate through an abandoned facility rigged with destructive lasers, electrical wires, various key buttons and other harmful and dangerous traps throughout the game. Unlocking gates, keeping both astronauts alive as you float about in zero gravity with your jetpacks, the tether is crucial for the tremendously challenging puzzles that lay ahead.
If choosing to play solo, each astronaut is controlled separately using either the keyboard or more preferably, a gamepad. The arrow keys will control one astronaut, while the W, A, S, D keys control the other. In terms of the gamepad, both analogue sticks make a much more efficient method of guiding your astronaut buddies to safety. The catch of SpaceBOUND is the tether linking the two together.
Floating around, bouncing towards and away from each other proves extremely difficult when trying to avoid the shifting lasers and dangerous saw blades. When you inevitably meet your end to the scorching burn of one of the mines’ many lasers or death traps, your astronaut(s) burst into a splattered bloodshed of frustrations and regret; leaving you to restart the relatively short, but tedious level from the beginning. Say both of your comrades just barely survived the beam that nearly singed your space suits into ash, if your tether breaks it’s back to the start of the level.
Though the tether line proves to be a minor liability and an extreme risk for ending your current run, it also acts as a strategic tool for throwing asteroid chunks, and even yourselves across the screen in a much more energetic manner. Catching rocks and then throwing them through a variety of lasers and obstacle, breaking down electrical lines guarding your way out and most notable pressing the button required to unlock the next area give players a true sense of accomplishment once the task has safely been completed.
With the short level length and a trial-and-error approach to puzzle solving, re-trying numerous areas throughout the campaign becomes more and more common, testing the player’s patience and platforming skills. The dual movements of the astronauts become second nature as you experiment with various methods of manoeuvring in sync with one another.
Through dozens of levels full of traps and hurdles, an even more excruciating Time Trial mode and relentless mind-numbing puzzles for solo or co-op play, SpaceBOUND is the answer for 2D, zero-gravity platforming with a bemusing and often frustrating gameplay and level design. The tenacious gameplay and clever use of guiding two characters at once across a drifting minefield of death traps prove not for the faint of heart but requires players to act quickly and precisely, while using patience and your surroundings to accomplish uniquely difficult challenges in SpaceBOUND.