Flatspace in Review – Lost in Flatspace!

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One of my favourite game genres is open-space exploration. In the early 1990s, I fell in love with Origin’s Privateer and up a logical progressive ladder through the X series. The freedom to go anywhere, to do anything, and to be anyone is appealing. Imagine my excitement when I noticed that finally an open world space faring game has come to the iPhone! Now double it and read on!

Flatspace is an open world space exploration game. Though unlike the noted Privateer and X series and their grandaddy, Elite, it is viewed top down and plays more like an action/shooter than a space simulator. Frankly this is all for the better since in my experience space sims don’t work on the iDevice… At least not yet…

There is no specific goal in Flatspace, though if you want to “win” the game, you can assemble the components of an intergalactic hyperdrive. “What am I supposed to?” – you may ask… Well, earn money, explore, complete missions and buy/upgrade your ship. And to this extent Flatspace has it all! Right of the bat you may choose your profession. Be it Trader, Space pirate, Bounty hunter or any of the 6 available professions you’ll get the starter pack to be what you want. At the same time the game doesn’t limit you in any way. Whatever you decide to be, you may switch to your desired occupation at any time.

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And the amount of ways to earn money in Flatspace is just startling. You really can do anything you like! From buying/selling goods to mining asteroids; from going bounty hunting and capturing or destroying pirates to becoming one yourself and hitting the freighters for cargo – anything goes. And there are always the plain old missions, like delivering items, taxiing customers, rescuing prisoners, etc…

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The amount of things to spend money on is equally impressive. You can one-man fighting ships to huge carriers, capable of housing half-a-dozen ships of their own and costing a large fortune. And each can be customised from the power core to the crew! Unfortunately herein lies the first problem of Flatspace. With the huge amount of available ships and equipment it’s almost impossible to choose which is better. There is no way of really comparing the stats of currently owned equipment and ships to the ones on the market apart from trying to keep all the stats in your head. A lot of the stats don’t really make sense and are scattered al around the place.

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The graphics in-game are absolutely amazing. Space is gorgeous with nebulas, asteroids, ships and space stations. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for menus and station graphics. All of them are just green boxes with text on a single background. And this leads to our second problem – the interface. All of the menu and station navigation are button only. If you fancy seeing your ship in the hangar bay while you’re adding/removing stuff from it – forget it. As noted above upgrading your ship is confusing at best and hell at worst.

The in-game interface is a little better, especially after the 1.1 update, but nevertheless stinks. You can choose the tilt, button or joystick controls. The only more or less playable ones are tilt and joystick. And while tilt behave as you might expect the joystick pad is just far too small to be really comfortable. The screen is really crammed with all sorts of buttons, with no indication of which is which. And for some reason you can only target the closest ship or station which is hell if you’re checking out bounties.

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Playing Flatspace is a mixed experience. Great gameplay is buried under a poor interface. And customising ships (one of the reasons to buy this sort of game) is confusing. Then there is the learning curve which is almost vertical. There is no tutorial, so you are thrown into the big bad world without anything but your britches. At the same time once you get past all of that and get a grip at the controls, you’ll find yourself putting in hours and hours to collect enough cash to get that next ship. This is a must have for any fan of open world space exploration games, but will most likely be too complex for a casual player, at least until the developers do a thorough redesign of the GUI.

With this I declare Flatspace officially touched!

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App Summary
Title:FlatspaceDeveloper:Wisp Games
Reviewed Ver:1.1.0Min OS Req:3.1
Price:$2.99App Size:8.4 MB
  • Huge open living world
  • 6 different professions
  • Dozens of ships and lots and lots of different upgrades
  • Many ways to earn a living
  • Beautiful in-game graphics
  • Awful station and menu graphics and interface
  • Poor and illogical in-game GUI
  • Almost vertical learning curve

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