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Space Miner: Space Ore Bust

For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

Unrefined gold mine

Product: Space Miner: Space Ore Bust | Developer: Venan Entertainment | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action, Arcade, Shooter | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: US | App version: 1.0.1
Space Miner: Space Ore Bust iPhone, thumbnail 1
It's not enough to find gold: you're got to refine it for it really be worth something.

Space Miner glitters with originality, and its top-down action is almost as fun as its banjo tunes and hillbilly dialogue. It's like a space-age western, with arcade combat and the final frontier galvanised with a bit of humour. It's instantly likable and thoroughly entertaining, even if it isn't completely accessible.

A vein of quality runs through the game, despite less than ideal controls and difficulty imbalances that prevent it from being pure gold.

Intergalactic hootenanny

Space Miner
casts you as a young asteroid miner out to make some money, but it's less about you than your Uncle Jeb. While he has good intentions, his eagerness to buy a gargantuan neon sign to promote his mining operation finds him shackled to the Mega Space Corporation. Expensive loan payments are killing his business and it's up to you to help settle the tab.

Collecting ore from the company asteroid belt brings in some cash, though clearing the debt requires taking on special missions for the heartless Mega Space Corporation. From easy ore harvests to attack runs on rogue drones to rescuing stranded space tourists, your offer to help quickly evolves into a full-time job.

Mining is your primary focus, though, and you do this by manoeuvring a ship through top-down levels filled with breakable asteroids and drones. A virtual analogue stick sits in the lower-left, opposite a thruster button and fire key on the lower-right. Twirling the analogue stick only changes your ship's direction: moving requires firing the thrusters.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

It's an awkward control scheme. You never have satisfying command over your ship because you're constantly struggling to find the right angle and velocity. It does allow you to fire weapons in any direction while moving, but it's unintuitive.

An option to eliminate the thruster and tie movement and direction to the analogue stick is available, but that fares no better. It's extremely hard to exert control over the ship with this toggled. Sometimes the ship moves forward when you slide the stick, whereas other times it just turns it in place.

A twin-stick configuration - one analogue stick for movement, another for directional attacks - should have been offered: in fact, it ought to have been the default means of control. Without question, it's the game's biggest source of aggravation.

Such an oversight impacts other aspects of gameplay. Without pinpoint control, combat becomes artificially hard. During routine mining missions where enemies pose little threat, it's not a concern, but story-related missions feature intense combat scenarios that are made unnecessarily difficult due to the controls.

Gunfight at the O.K. space station

Even with proper controls, many missions would remain problematic. On several occasions during the lengthy 24-mission campaign progress was halted because upgrades and enemies weren't appropriately balanced.

These situations often come down to luck, since purchasing all available upgrades and flying in guns-blazing is not enough to get the job done. Factor in control deficiencies and things can get frustrating.

Yet there's so much to like about Space Miner that you can be made to forget its troubles from time to time. Sarcastic dialogue elicits chuckles regularly, tons of side quests and challenges provide immense value, and the presentation has a lot of charm.

Outfitting your ship with new parts using cash earned on mining runs is good fun and the cast of characters make it worth reading through conversations that you'd normally skip.

This originality and charm makes Space Miner a good game, but its flaws hold it back from being a great one. The gold is right there, it just needs to be refined.
Space Miner: Space Ore Bust
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 18 February 2010
Space Miner is sitting on a gold mine of charming gameplay, yet awkward controls and gameplay imbalances keep it from reaching its full potential
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