Riding on the crest of the popularity of retro-style games making their way to the iOS, developer Nguyen Quoc Nam Tran released Space Max – An Amazing Adventure into Galaxy. With a tagline that goes, “You like fun, you want frustration, you want challenges, you sure want SPACE MAX,” hardcore retro gamer fans would surely love to get a crack at this game. But once they do, the love affair ends there.
Living true to its tagline, this game itself is frustratingly challenging. With a ship that is modeled after Star Trek’s USS Enterprise (whose IP rights, I hope they were able to settle before releasing this game), you would expect it to handle as nimbly as this legendary spacecraft. Unfortunately, it’s not. A name like Space Max means your spacecraft is always travelling at maximum speed, probably at warp speed too. To slow down, you have to keep your finger on the screen and keep it there while tilting your gadget left and right to maneuver through the different obstacles on your path. This makes you feel like the character Tommy Webber in the movie Galaxy Quest who was asked to pilot a real version of the NSEA Protector, which he never got to do because he was only a sci-fi actor in the film and not an actual pilot.
Like Tommy Webber though, you will eventually get the hang of controlling the ship. Every time you crash and respawn, you will eventually get the hang of having to stop your ship from zooming to the top of the screen. Just like old school retro games, there is no way to calibrate the game to allow you to adjust the controls. You just have to learn to cope with what you’ve got and maneuver through an ever increasing level of difficulty.
Some of those who’ve taken a shot at playing this game have found it to be amusing and entertaining. Others even claim that the game brings some sense of nostalgia and makes them remember their 90’s gaming days. Unfortunately, this game didn’t have that feel for me. I had gone through my fair share of vertical scrolling games and this didn’t do it for me. Tilting my iPhone to maneuver the ship did not have the same accuracy feel as that of a game pad controller. I admit that the game pad felt stiff and made maneuvering more challenging. But that is where the fun was. It wasn’t about finesse; it was about wrangling your ship around obstacles. And that, for me, is what brings out the retro feel.
Overall, the game is playable and can, as one customer put it, be “a good one for killing some time during TV commercial breaks.” But whether it lives up to the hype of a retro-type game created by another Nguyen (the 2013 hit game, Flappy Bird created by Nguyen Ha Dong), I wouldn’t hold my breath on it. Also, rating one’s achievement with rankings like Star Chicken to Star Lord, this game is looking at possible IP infringement lawsuits from entertainment outfits who would like to keep their dignity intact.
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