Hazardous Space by Coffee Cat Games
Hazardous Space is a simple but entertaining Roguelike with sci-fi elements so pulpy they verge on camp.
As a wise-cracking space tough trapped on a station whose inhabitants have been infected with some kind of mutant zombie virus, it’s your job to navigate procedural levels and do lots of turn-based monster-bashing.
Moscow studio Coffee Cat Games draw on a couple of big influences here.
From 2017’s Darkest Dungeon, there’s position-based combat on a two-dimensional plane. You’ll face a line of up to three enemies, and their position determines how easy a time you’ll have hitting them and what weapons you can use.
One-handed weapons like knives can only hit the enemy directly in front of you, two-handed ones like axes can reach either the first or second, and guns can hit all three.
You’ve also got special skills you can use, like a damage-absorbing force field, and upgrading your space suit will unlock more.
Get Crafty or Die Trying
A bigger influence is 2015’s Skyhill, from fellow Russian devs Mandragora, transplanting similar mechanics and feel from post-apocalyptic, mutant-infested hotel to pulpy, zombie-infested space station.
Hazardous Space uses a similarly simple crafting system – there are crafting stations scattered throughout the levels – and a combat system that allows targeting of body parts (head-shots are harder to score, but more likely to do critical damage).
Another comparison is the “Energy” mechanic, which borrows a lot from Skyhill’s food and hunger-driven approach to survival. Your main character’s space suit and special skills all run on energy, and the more you upgrade the suit, the more energy it consumes just moving from room to room. Run out, and you start to lose health instead.
Get low on energy, and death can come quick, forcing a strategy of constant scavenging, hoping to find energy-restoring food or batteries – or the opportunity to craft them – while still trying to find the most efficient way to the exit.
In Space, No One Can Understand Your Wisecracks
The developers tried to add some story to the action, as told by static cut scenes between levels and augmented by conversational flavor text between your character and the rest of his team – a youthful hacker type and a genteel reptilian alien – but the dialogue is so poorly translated it doesn’t even make sense in a lot of places.
On top of that, it runs regardless of whatever else is going on; you could be in the midst of a fight for your life, and the dialogue just keeps scrolling past on the top left of the screen, whether you’re paying attention to it or not.
As a fan of picking out bits of lore and atmosphere, I found this frustrating…at least until I realized that most of the conversations repeat even in subsequent chapters.
Too Much Space Station, Too Little to Do
The awkwardness of the game’s minimal narrative aside, Hazardous Space is really about the survival and combat elements, simplified as they are.
Unfortunately, along with borrowing some innovative bits of Skyhill and – to a lesser extent – Darkest Dungeon – it’s also inherited their worst flaws. Like so many Roguelikes, it leaves players too much at the mercy of the random number generator.
More crucially, though, it offers lots of different weaponry and tactical approaches to combat, but in the end, it doesn’t feel like different approaches lead to different outcomes.
I tried playing tactically, using special skills and weaponry to exploit my enemies’ weaknesses. I also tried just bashing them one at a time with the heaviest weapon I could get my hands on.
Both ended up with the same results, more or less, except that the more carefully approached fights took a lot longer.
These faults aside, Hazardous Space is still a pretty fun time, silly but self-aware, and its minimalist take on the Roguelike is undemanding without being mindless.
Hazardous Space is available via Steam.
Watch the official trailer for Hazardous Space below: