After a long hiatus, the couch co-op genre is making a comeback on Xbox One, but was it worth the wait?
The premise behind Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime is simple enough. All adorable, furry animals known as the League of Very Empathetic Rescue Spacenauts (or Lovers for short) live in harmony as they cruise across the universe in a heart-shaped space station. Things are going immaculately for The Lovers until the forces of Anti-Love attack and break the heart station into two. From here, it’s up to you and your co-op buddy (or AI companion) to defeat Anti-Love and restore peace and unity to the galaxy. Although there are three ships to choose from by time the game ends, how you combat Anti-Love in your space ship is entirely up to you. Each of the ships have a steering wheel that pushes you along, a handful of mini-turrets, a high-powered laser and a trusty shield. From there, power-ups can be applied to each part of the ship to fit you and your parter’s preferences. The foundation of the game makes LIADS a very easy game to play, but an extremely challenging one to master.
Once you understand the basics weapon and navigation controls, LIADS introduces you to its core mechanic: navigating uncharted space to rescue captured Lovers that have been scattered around each level. Once you capture five of the ten Lovers, they open up a heart shaped portal that will open up the next level. While you’re never punished for leaving behind the extra Lovers, it’s in your best interest to find as many as possible. As the game progresses the more Lovers you rescue, the more upgrades you unlock to improve your ship.
Because I didn’t have a co-op partner for LIADS, I relied entirely on help from my AI companion. At times, my companion would do exactly as he was directed. But when enemies came onto the screen from both sides, I would notice he would sit idle at shield stations while we took fire instead of rotating the shield to block incoming fire. In the early levels, LIADS is forgiving, so I didn’t notice the AI struggling to keep up. As I got to the third and forth campaign chunk, though, I had to drop the difficulty as the companion simply couldn’t keep up with helping me defend the ship. The developers have made clear with their marketing that the game is meant to be couch co-op, but I still found myself disappointed by how inconsistent the AI was.
While I had to binge play the game for review, each of the four campaigns could easily be broken down into separate play sessions of about an hour each. If done that way, the game will feel like am ample offering, but I was admittedly surprised that I beat the game in a single four-hour sitting. Despite the minor length gripe, I found that each of the levels felt unique and each campaign had its own mechanic quirk that prevented the gameplay from feeling stale or repetitive. Some levels had black holes that would teleport you across the play space, and others would require you to navigate around tightly packed planets while avoiding getting sucked into their gravitational pull. Every choice made by developer Astroid Base felt like a smart and intuitive move that fit the tone and world of the game perfectly.
From a sound and world design point of view, LIADS is simply stunning. A neon galaxy packed with adorable (and deadly) enemies fit the tone perfectly, and the music felt like it was built with each individual level in mind. Everything about LIADS design just oozed stylish fun, and it is admittedly what separates the game the most from other 2D space shooters.
Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime is an adorable game that feels like a real labor of love from the developers. The beautiful visuals are easily the most attractive feature, but LIADS’ gameplay is also a breathe of fresh air. Centering around teamwork and companionship feels like a huge refreshment when the game industry leans so heavily on gritty singleplayer experiences. Because there isn’t any online co-op and the AI has some serious inconsistencies, I have a hard time recommending this to gamers who spend most of their time playing games on their own. That being said, I think there’s some serious bonding to be had between friends who decide to dive into this game together.
If you choose to embark on this adorable spacetime adventure, be sure to bring along a human companion.