"Spaceslingers" is a brand new game that you will adore if you like solving physics puzzles, and curse if orbital trajectories are not your forte.
The whimsical game, which comes from solo developer RefresherTowel, is now available now on Steam. In the game, players must aim your ship to get around black holes, asteroids, white holds and other celestial objects while working for a terrible, terrible company called "Spamazon."
Spamazon is a gig worker's nightmare, as the company does such things as deduct training and toilet breaks from your pay, as well as absolve itself from any responsibility for injuries, mental stress or death.
Your ship moves with just the help of gravity. The rationale Spamazon has for using only gravity to push your spaceship is that it's a cost-saving measure, the game declares: "To reduce operating costs, we only provide enough fuel for launching the ship."
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As you'll quickly find out as you fall into a black hole for the umpteenth time, Spamazon doesn't care about the issues and dangers this creates. "It certainly results in more fatalities," the game says, "[but] company accountants have determined that the money saved in fuel outweighs the cost in human life."
After a quick training session, you'll face down your first few deliveries. The faster you complete the deliveries, the higher you score on the leaderboards. But you have to practice a lot just to get those first few runs done. Disclaimer: after numerous flailing tries, I wasn't even able to make it through all the basic deliveries. But I'm sure that given more time and practice, I'd eventually get it.
To succeed in the game, you need to cleverly aim your ship, using just the right amount of speed, and curve your craft perfectly around the obstacles. If you are a veteran of "Angry Birds Space" or "Kerbal Space Program," you are going to love this obsession with realism — it's great for learning physics in a hurry.
Luckily, if you fail, which you likely will at least a few times, it doesn't take any more than a mouse click (or hitting "r" on the keyboard) to reset the game and try again. You also get infinite tries for each delivery, allowing you to finesse your route as you gain more experience.
Just be prepared for the game's steep learning curve. "Spaceslingers" is a great game if you don't mind spending 10 or 15 minutes a day practicing and refining your gravity curve. I wouldn't recommend doing much more than that as a beginner (like myself), because it can get pretty frustrating.
The best way to approach this game is like any new sport or skill. Give yourself at least a few days, and at least a few tries on those days, to start getting used to the platform. Make sure to watch the paths carefully to learn from mistakes as the game itself doesn't offer you the solution to go through each delivery, so it will be up to you to have patience (even with Spamazon's demands).
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Aside from my numerous delivery issues, I really enjoyed the game's cute graphics and the encouraging tooltips that popped up after (to paraphrase "Firefly") cursing my sudden but inevitable failure. The tips would give me some ideas for refining my route or even offer a bit of encouragement, saying that sometimes many, many attempts lead to success.
In a way, "Spaceslingers" teaches us a subtle lesson about the real world of spaceflight. In the early 1960s, launching rockets was something we struggled to achieve, and even today the possibility of rocket failure makes us feel tense watching any launch. Here, you experience that same tension in-game.
Physics is tough, space is tougher and any mistake you make can be fatal. It's only by constant practice that you're going to get better, and as you learn from experience, there is always something else in space that could kill you. So pay attention.
I'm going to need a lot more time to satisfy Spamazon's demands, but in the meantime, "Spaceslingers" is a fun effort at using physics in a game environment. Just make sure to understand that when you crash, it isn't the end of the world (or the universe), it's just a learning opportunity to stretch your skills further for the next attempt.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.