App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Not everyone dreams of being an astronaut when they’re younger, but those that do no doubt fantasize about guiding their own space ship through the stars and into parts unknown. It’s a highly romanticized concept. Lonely Ship somehow manages to glorify it while simultaneously making it pretty darn intense.
A lone rocket blasts into space. It’s mission: to get as far as it can without blowing up. That and to rescue any surviving humans after some unknown catastrophe wiped out pretty much all life on Earth. It’s a bit more bleak than the cartoony style implies, yes. Swiping a finger along the bottom of the screen steers the ship while tapping launches a flare that can somehow miraculously destroy space debris. Through the combination of those two elements players have to guide their ship through treacherous obstacles while gathering comets, planetary rings, and hull-protecting stars. Oh, and they have to do all that using only a tiny cone of light to see where they’re going.
Were Lonely Ship a more typical “endless flyer” game it would be decent. The controls are responsive and the increasingly difficult sectors provide enough of a challenge. The extra tasks such as gathering X number of stars in one run or reaching a specific distance are also a good reason to keep playing, especially since each one that’s completed will unlock various gameplay adjustments like bigger score multipliers. However the inability to see very well actually makes it far more interesting. Being able to track moving hazards and dodge them in time is tough enough when the entire screen is visible. Doing all of that with a narrow beam of light illuminating a small section of space in front of the ship is another matter entirely. Skilled players (or anyone, really) can also opt to share a video of their run with friends.
What bugs me about playing Lonely Rocket, aside from the tutorial screens disrupting the gameplay something fierce, is the way the ship bounces off of obstacles when it hits them. I’m fine with it taking damage and eventually blowing up but the way it comes to an almost complete stop kills the momentum in just about every conceivable way. There’s a brief moment of invincibility that gives players a chance to find an opening and go around, assuming they haven’t already been turned to dust, but it can still get pretty irritating to have a run disrupted by a string of fender benders.
Playing bumper planets against one’s will aside, I enjoyed my time with Lonely Rocket. At its core it’s a fairly simple endless flyer (with a worthwhile approach to gameplay challenges), but removing the player’s ability to see everything livens it up quite a bit. It makes something that could have been fairly mundane feel surprisingly fresh.