Spacejacked is an ingenious genre mash of tower defense strategies, arcade shoot ’em up fun, with a hint of rogue-lite. Meet Dave Paprovsky, mild mannered space technician by day, guy who sleeps in his bunk at night. Until one day, aliens attack your spaceship and jack your crew. It is up to you to defend each room of the spaceship. Equipped with a blaster, and the ability to build defensive turrets, Dave must thwart the alien incursions all by his lonesome. As well as rescue his crew mates, and get some shut eye every now and again.
You would think cramming a few genres together would mean aspects of each would be weaker. On the contrary, Spacejacked’s arcade action complements the thought provoking tower defense strategy elements well. Think Orcs Must Die!, where your hero’s basic attacks complement the varied turret abilities. The difference between these two is a 2d shooter perspective, versus third person.
There are three rooms you’ll do battle in: Medical Bay, Robotics Room, and Engineering. Having different layouts means each has to be defensed differently. The main area, is your headquarters where available crew members reside. Turrets that you have built and damage that rooms have sustained carry over to the next game day. Turrets, repairs, and upgrades are dependent on metal, the game’s primary resource, you scavenge from enemies and mini-games. Metal is limited, and you will without doubt face numerous crossroads with regards to its usage.
Regardless of your turret configurations, it’s a safe bet they will not handle the alien onslaught on their own. That’s where your trusty blaster and gravity boots comes in. Simply by pressing up or own Dave can instantly shift his gravity to the top of platform or beneath it using his boots. Allowing for fast movement between floors in each of the rooms; useful for quickly getting behind forward attacking enemies. Enemies can, and will, cause damage to Dave and the room’s central station. Should either reach the end of their health bar, it’s game over.
Here’s what I love about Spacejacked: The chaos from aliens invading more than one room at a time. The retro metal scavenging game, within a (retro) game. The furious flipping from roof to floor to get behind aliens. Creating that perfect bottleneck. Loved the different dances each crew member busted out with after rescue. Not to mention, the constant dilemmas: Should I upgrade the blaster? Repair one of the damaged room computer? Do I have enough defenses in Engineering? Is upgrading one laser worth it versus building 2 machine gun turrets?
When you think you’ve got one day figured out, the next one comes and kicks you in the keister.
The turrets you build and the damage the ship sustains carries over to the next day. It’s easy to fall into building traps, where you over defend one and not the other. This aspect makes the single player campaign engrossing as well as challenging.
As an added bonus for progressing through the campaign “days,” you’ll rescue crew members. Each one will bring a new upgrade aspect with them. One crew member, as mentioned, allows you to partake in a mini-game to collect more metal in space. Another allows for upgrades for your blaster.
Managing resources can tax even shrewd gamers. Before you know it, you may end up cornered with a room that’s impossible to defend given the lack of resources. Starting over the campaign, can be frustrating but necessary to plan a new defense avenue. However, gameplay is superb, to the point most will find it hard to resist the allure of multiple attempts. That is due to how seamless the arcade action is melded with strategic planning. Spacejacked’s controls, continuity, and gameplay are executed very well.
Difficulty progression is smooth, introducing new enemies and challenges at regular intervals. Aside from getting bigger and taking more damage, enemies will block your blaster shots, or defeat certain types of turrets with ease. You’ll not only mull over which turrets to use, but also your position relative to spawning enemies for maximum defensive coverage.
All too often, retro graphics can be wielded like an oversized club by game designers. Not so with Spacejacked, it’s graphics maybe block-filled, but it fits its comical premise well. It doesn’t rely on simpler graphics as its singular nostalgic draw; that’s what the gameplay is for. Instead the graphics and catchy MIDI tunes smooth over any blemishes the game’s challenges couldn’t cover.
“Build. Shoot. Survive Invasion By Filthy Alien Scum,” that’s this game’s comical tag-line. It’s also the perfect description for this clever arcade tower defense title. My expressions while playing this switched between grinning and sweating; fun and intense room management. Spacejacked proves (once again) that the tower defense genre just needs “something” to give it needed longevity and depth. The way each game day progresses, as well as the furious arcade action, retro charm, and addicting gameplay should put this game high on any gamer’s wishlist.