If you were to glance at a screenshot of Rymdkapsel, you may be forgiven for ignoring it because of how it looks. Simple Tetris shapes assembled on a generic black space setting, with tiny rectangles dotted round – it doesn’t sound incredible. But if you sit down and spend an hour with the game (and you will lose hours without blinking), you’ll be happy to discover one of the most easily accessible, addictive strategy titles in ages.
Starting out life on iOS devices, there was nothing wrong with that version whatsoever, but the PC edition gives us a larger space to play with and is all the better for it. But I digress – what are those rectangles, and what exactly are they doing?
First of all, there is no story to speak of. If you’ve come for a narrative about Commander William and his team of space explorers, you’re in the wrong place. Presented as you see it, you are tasked with creating a space station to explore the dark corners of space, but you’re not alone and Rymdkapsel quickly becomes a war between your space rectangles, and the more hexagonal shaped enemy that will rush you, wave after wave.
You see, along the bottom of the screen there is a red bar, ever encroaching across the screen. When it is filled, the enemy will come – slowly at first, and just a few ships, but just as you think you are on top of your resource management, the waves will grow in speed and number. Thankfully, there are helpful monoliths that can be researched. These four grey statues are located in the opposing corners of the map, meaning it’ll take some work and planning to get them, but the reward ranges from slowing the oncoming enemy attack wave, to simply making your little rectangles move quicker.
When you aren’t fending off your foes, you’ll be using your time wisely to gather resources to further build your space station. The Tetris shaped pieces can be any type of building you choose, but you will need to think carefully (and trial and error is important here) about placing. If you have your kitchen too far away from your gardens or barracks, this will create a waste of travel time and really destroy you in the later waves – you are the protector and commander.
Objectives are offered to give you an idea of what to go for, but more often than not, the focus is on survival. Zen-like music accompanies your journey, and creates an almost trance-like state. Honestly, there are very few games that I’ve lost hours too without realising. Get too involved and it’ll be dark outside your window, and you’ll wonder what happened to you. Rymdkapsel is involving, but it also allows for moments of calm. You might spend a wave planning out the next five or six buildings, but the following wave will just be built on research, or construction. There are frustrating moments, though, and it’s annoying when your rectangles don’t seem to take the ideal route, or decide to prioritise tasks in a way you wish they hadn’t, but these are minor annoyances in an otherwise lovely experience.
If you already own the game on iOS or PS Vita, the PC version includes two addition game modes: Zen and New Game Plus. Zen Mode removes all traces of enemies, allowing you to just build your space station at any pace you so desire, but it also removes the ability to get achievements. New Game Plus throws you in at the deep end by removing the tutorial section of the normal game, meaning you only have a first wave of scouts before the real enemy appears. Perhaps more interestingly, in this mode the monoliths are new and exciting: some will allow you to instantly create your next six rooms, whereas others will give your rectangular adventurers the chance to travel great distances faster.
While Zen Mode is a fascinating chance to just relax and build, New Game Plus is ideal for people who have played the game before, not least because they’ll want to research and explore these new monoliths. Essentially, even if you’ve thrashed the previous versions on a daily basis, the PC edition feels more definitive, with more reasons to play, more often.
VERDICT: Ultimately, Rymdkapsel succeeds by making so many other games feel weighed down with unnecessary baggage. The minimalist approach may not work for every game, but here we have a truly successful, consuming experience that you just can’t put down. The PC version will have you staring into your monitor, darkness surrounding you as you try to beat your previous wave, and you’ll never want it to end.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.