Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Beyond Space is like a great summer blockbuster. It’s fast-paced, crowd-pleasing, and has production values so spectacularly high they practically ooze out of the screen. Experiences like these always have their share of problems if one thinks about them too hard, but it’s hard to deny just how entertaining they are.
The game starts off with a bang as a lavish, pre-rendered cutscene introduces players to a universe of intergalactic spaceship armadas, pirates, and mysterious aliens. Players take control of Max Walker; a mercenary pilot who becomes increasingly embroiled in a “galaxy-spanning conflict.” Between its frequent cutscenes and full voice-acting, the game actually seems to care about its narrative. But the “Top Gun in space” tale is so cheesy and clichéd players will keep their thumb on the skip button during repeat playthroughs, which are highly encouraged since the game only lasts about two hours.
But who cares about the story when Beyond Space looks as amazing as it does? Players can choose from a variety of spaceships with unique and incredibly detailed designs. Meanwhile, the different lighting effects for the plethora of sci-fi weapons lead to encounters that are as beautiful as they are thrilling. Stare at the light of a laser blast refracting against the chrome hull of a ship as players narrowly avoid hits. Gawk at the motion blur, fiery afterburners, and trailing particles as rockets boost their way toward checkpoints. The game seems to cut a few corners by keeping its environments mostly empty save for a few satellites and asteroids, but even the different planetary backgrounds - which are ostensibly just flat pictures - look great and contribute a lot to the atmosphere. The art itself may be a little generic, but the graphics are so technically impressive players won’t mind that they’re looking at space marines for the umpteenth time.
With all that style though, it’s a shame that Beyond Space's substance isn’t quite up to the same standards. Steering the ship with tilt or virtual buttons works fine, but the more complex touch gestures like barrel rolls and U-turns aren’t as responsive. Meanwhile, the 16 different missions are nicely varied but hit and miss. General shootouts, either in a ship or behind a turret, are usually enjoyable as are time attack challenges like flying through rings or blowing up mines. However, more specialized tasks range from mediocre, like boss fights where no strategy is needed whatsoever, to straight up bad, like an ill-advised stealth sequence. Even the bigger fights tend drag due to how wide open the battlefields are. There’s a reason why the levels in Star Fox (an easy comparison) were mostly tightly constructed corridors occasionally punctuated with epic, sprawling dogfights.
Beyond Space's gameplay and story may not live up to the potential of its awesome visuals, but it is a great ride regardless. Dumb fun is still fun.