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Space for improvement

Product: Spacelings | Developer: HotGen Ltd | Publisher: HotGen Ltd | Format: Android | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | File size: 16.4M | Version: Europe
Spacelings Android, thumbnail 1
There's a trend in smartphone gaming at the moment for saving cute, hapless creatures. Forget all the mindless violence - now the aim is to protect and nurture those in difficulty.

The things that need saving in Spacelings are Spacelings, sweet little aliens that have, through some unfathomable narrative quirk, managed to get themselves stuck in all manner of mazes. Their only hope is you and your tractor beam.

Lost in space

You play as a stationary mothership at the entrance to these mazes, firing a constant blue stream of energy out in front of you. Using reflectors, you manipulate this beam to suck in your hapless charges and bring them safely back into your metallic innards.

To make matters worse though, the Spacelings are beset by evil, angular robots with glowing red eyes, that like nothing better than exploding, killing the cute aliens or destroying your spaceship, before you have a chance to complete your mission.

Your tractor beam doesn't differentiate between the evil robots and the Spacelings, so you need to think carefully before you place your reflectors, or you'll be scooping up your own doom instead of the aliens you need to move on to the next level.

Diversionary tactics

In order to proceed, you need to learn how to slingshot, diverting your beam before the bombs, mines, and bullets reach you and explode. The game has a nice mix of action and logic, requiring you to think quickly and have a solid plan in place.

To place the reflectors that guide your beam, you slide your finger across the rippling blue energy strip in the direction you want to divert it.

Every level gives you a set number of reflectors, and collectible floating pods will boost that count by one. Some levels need you to pick those up before you can rescue the Spacelings, while in others they're just for show.

There are hundreds of levels to play through, and the game slowly and carefully introduces you to its different mechanics as you go. If the levels get too tricky, there's a hint system as well, which nudges you in the right direction.

Tractor engine's blown

Unfortunately, the controls aren't always up to scratch. The game doesn't always recognise what you're trying to do, leaving you staring on in frustration as a stream of explosives sink their flaming teeth into your mothership.

There are mean difficulty spikes as well, which creep up on you and leave you flummoxed. There's fun to be had with Spacelings, and lots of it, but from time to time that fun gets lost behind a less than adequate control system and some strange design choices.

Spacelings is by no means a bad game. It has an original core idea, and at its best it's more than able to hold its own against almost any other game in the App Store.

At its worst, though, it feels unfair and broken, a mishmash of mistakes that leave you flat. It's nice to save defenceless creatures, but Spacelings sometimes makes you want to kill them.
Reviewer photo
Harry Slater | 22 August 2011
A nice try, with some good ideas, but Spacelings has too many problems to make it a must buy
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