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Spaceteam, I Heart You
We hear hyperbolic praise constantly for mediocre things that don’t deserve a fraction of our attention. My close friends and family would consider me to be pessimistic when it comes to mainstream or counter-culture’s so called “gems”. Let’s be frank, most “things”, are not as good as advertised. Most of our entertainment consumption is not a fruitful or vegetative garden, full of meaning and exploration; but rather the fast food/hate-yourself-for-viewing subliminal intake. This leads me to Spaceteam, the “anti” of everything I previously said. Spaceteam is great and should never be mistaken for anything less.
Let’s Get Briefed!
Mercy me, where to begin? Ah, yes, the spacecraft-techno-mobile version of bop-it is a gift from developer Sleeping Beast Games. Starting a game requires 2-4 players old school LAN style except connection is made via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and not 30ft of ethernet cable (nostalgia of original Halo). There is no tutorial, no handholding; simply an immediate mental workout. The game is about communication, your ability to read under pressure, and to convey instructions while receiving them simultaneously. Not set in a galaxy far, far away, but in your palm, the star deck for your cosmonautic adventure is both your friend and enemy.
Spaceteam prompts the awaiting chaos with a waiting room. Once your squad has gathered, it is time to beam into action. Your screen features multiple panels layered with switches, buttons, and dials that are labeled with some of the most absurd and playful jargon a person could imagine. But fret not; if you have mastered the gift of gab, the following stage is buffered with a small preparation period. Using this period is essential as each panel should receive an once-over before mayhem ensues. Again, the core mechanic of the game is communication. And, what impedes all communication you ask? A simple distraction does the trick just right. In the case of Spaceteam, these distractions can be electrical interference, broken panels that need a finger-guided repair, slime engulfing your labels, asteroid impacts, and wormhole flips (play the game and it makes sense).
Once you’ve coordinated how to shout out commands and the corresponding action each requires to complete the split-second tasks, you will be indoctrinated amongst the galactic elite. Progress is represented by a small ship at the top of the screen who has the spirit of the “little engine that could” but you at the helm. Guide it home safely.
There are several qualities, both instantaneous and learned, that make Spaceteam awesome. It leans on the ability to satisfy two important factors to achieve this mark: immediate accessibility and camaraderie. First, for reasons beyond me, the game is free of charge. With no reason beyond not knowing about the game, there is no rationale as to why every iOS owner would not have this title in their collection. Every person I have had the pleasure of showing the game to, has not only found it enduring, but has converted each person they know to download the app. The experience Spaceteam provides sheds a strong spotlight on the value of a dollar (let alone free). The App Store has many surprises but few actually can withstand the test of time, or 10 minutes after purchase, without being deleted. Cheap is good and the App Store is riddled with thousands of such titles but none are as important as Spaceteam. It is undeletable. Like your music or clock app, it should remain a permanent fixture on any iOS device.
As far as camaraderie, the game is built for just that. It is amazing to watch a room full of non-gamers play Spaceteam, while fiddling and stumbling over their words, and do it with such delight. With each progressing stage, each player becomes more confident and in tune with conquering the madness one another spews. As time passes, you learn revealing dimensions of personalities that are usually ignored in casual interactions and conversations. Is this person truly a good listener? Do we work well together? Why is he so bossy? Why is she so loud? It gives a gleeful insight into the fixtures of your life and makes it okay to laugh at the faults while playfully improving them.
Spaceteam embodies what most entertainment aspires to be, excellently entertaining.