From a purely visual standpoint, OrangePixel’s Space Grunts first drew this thought from me: “Oh, it’s like Super Crate Box, but all top-down-like.” Super Crate Box was a free indie game (that you should play right now) of such simple and pure joy that it was de-made for the Commodore64 and ZX Spectrum, losing basically nothing but sound quality in the process. While Space Grunts is brethren to SCB in graphical style alone, I couldn’t help but continue to draw comparisons between the two on other areas: from the myriad of methods offered to make things explode, to the oozing catharsis in doing so.
In Space Grunts, you are one of three differently-skilled characters moving through a space dungeon, collecting items, and killing monsters until you beat the game or die a death most permanent! It’s a roguelike, so luck balances with skill, the usual shtick. Presented vibrantly and with generous color, the game doesn’t neglect to let it’s style seep through everything it can; Exploding drones are accompanied with spazzy screen shakes, and the music is contrastingly spacey, almost soothing.
In an uncommon design choice, it’s not just a dungeon crawler, but a step-based one as well, meaning that each new tile you move to will cause every enemy in the dungeon to make a move of their own. This adds a layer of strategy to what would otherwise be a bland formula, since there is a constant tug-of-war between you and the enemies as both parties try to claim the most advantageous gun-slingin’ real estate.
And how about that AI, eh? It’s not often that I’m impressed by the level of detail that goes into borderline-rudimentary AI, but Space Grunts‘ made me stop and grin at points. Enemies are not mindless homing dullards for the most part, and instead behave in a way that makes sense for what kind of creature they represent, as well as what firepower they can dish out. Sentient alien enemies will attempt to mosey around you, preventing your character from being in a position where they can make the first shot, thereby gaining the advantage -but still not in a way that feels almost pre-cognizant, like in most games. They approach you just as a thing that wants to live would. The robots, in contrast, don’t give a flying leap if you get the first shot or not, so long as they can shoot you ASAP. And worms, well, they barely notice you’re even there, it seems, and why would they? They’re worms. This point is somewhat subjective to my play-through, and may be up to coincidence, but I’d have a hard time denying the intentional nature of the AI’s design.
So, what have we got here in the end? A strategy-laden title, smartly programmed and addicting, and smattered with impactful sounds designed to be as satisfying as possible when you splatter a hoard of robo-spiders across an area the size of Delaware. If you can get past the annoyingly repetitive, intrusive tutorial messages and janky camera-shifting, the Android Strategy game Space Grunts is worth your time and money for sure.
Is it Hardcore?
Tight-knit roguelike dungeon crawler IN SPACE.