App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Throughout most science fiction, and even regular old real life, the particulars of space travel are rarely glorified. The successful missions and the unfortunate tragedies usually get a fair amount of attention, but the finer details of launch trajectories and escape velocities are usually ignored. Then Space Agency comes along and makes that kind of stuff cool.
Space Agency handles much like other iOS titles with some fairly straight-forward touch controls and time rankings, but it also makes players stop and think about how they plan to approach a given problem. Rather than simply having to get a satellite into orbit they have to construct a multi-stage rocket using a wide variety of parts and a limited budget, get it airborne, punch through the atmosphere to start orbiting the planet, adjust the module's direction, then separate the satellite and call it a day. There are a lot of factors to consider for even the simplest of missions, but that's also a big part of what makes it so much fun.
There are a bunch of fairly meticulous actions to perform throughout all of Space Agency's missions, but they all manages to skirt the line between too easy and too realistic perfectly. The mission assignments break every aspect of a given task down into easy to manage bits, the rocket construction is intuitive and lets players know what their chances for reaching the atmosphere are, and handy guides aid immensely with steering and waypoint navigation. It all comes together seamlessly, too. Transitioning from a launch to orbital maneuvers to reentry is totally painless and smartly designed. But the arcade-ification of all this simulator stuff doesn't mean it's going to be easy. There's quite a bit of challenge to be had, especially when going for Silver or Gold rankings.
Of course, even with all the awesome, Space Agency might not win everybody over. As I've said, this is a fairly meticulous game and those who prefer a lot more action in their games might find it somewhat dull. I also had a few issues with the button placement; I'd accidentally tap the wrong thing and completely throw the mission because the controls are pretty close together on the iPhone's smaller screen. I was able to work around this occasional problem by slowing down and being a bit more careful where I tapped, but the buttons still seem a bit tiny to me.
I didn't just enjoy Space Agency, I loved it. So much so that it's become my new "game I tell everyone about" for the foreseeable future. It's full of enough reactionary gameplay and tiny details to please a fairly large audience. Plus constructing a rocket, launching it, orbiting the planet, and returning a crew of astronauts safely is just delightful. And that's only one mission.