Space in Trouble is not really worth the trouble

Space in Trouble is a clone of Taito’s Space Invaders that suffers from sluggish controls. Games like this were once common enough, particularly in the early 80s when there was a huge market for fast-paced Space Invaders variations like Namco’s Galaga. To encounter one in 2011 is shocking, even on Facebook. If Space in Trouble was presented to a computer science professor as a proof-of-concept coding project, it would not deserve a grade any higher than a B. That something like this was published with the expectation that people would spend money on playing it ad-free is almost unthinkable.

It would be one thing if Space in Trouble was a Space Invaders clone for Facebook that controlled well and integrated social mechanics. Action-based gameplay is growing more popular on Facebook and while Taito parent company Square-Enix has begun to publish games on the platform, there’s no reason to believe an official social version of Space Invaders for Facebook is on the horizon. That’s a ripe chance for an independent developer to dive in with a well-made game of its own. At first Space in Trouble seems extremely promising, coded in mobile-friendly, forward-looking HTML5.

Space in Trouble

You’re supposed to control Space in Trouble with the left and right arrow keys and fire shots from your spaceship with the space bar. These are typical controls for Web-based Space Invaders clones. Where Space Invaders is a game built around deftly moving your ship left and right to dodge enemy bullets, though, Space in Trouble is a plodding game where your ship can only lurch slooooowly in either direction. The enemies are also slow moving until you’ve reduced their onscreen numbers to 3 or 4, which causes them to begin zipping around the screen.

In addition to the lumbering pace of your ship’s movements, in Space in Trouble you have to deal with the fact that you’re only allowed to have one normal bullet onscreen at a time (unless you’re using a power-up, all of which appear to be temporary). This means that if you fire a shot and you miss, you have to wait for your bullet to travel entirely off the screen before you fire another. Couple this with Space in Trouble‘s slow rate of movement and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s hard to hit enemy ships, especially during the end-game speed-up, and you’re punished for a miss with a long wait before you can fire again.

Space in Trouble

Space in Trouble isn’t a completely awful game, but it would take a lot of work to make it into something really worth playing. Right now everything it does well is in the realm of graphics and sound, which are elements of extremely secondary importance to a browser-based action game. After all, how many people play Facebook games with the sound off, so they can play at the office or while young children are napping? For action gaming, it’s vital that controls feel responsive and natural and Space in Trouble doesn’t manage to get this fundamental element right.