For a console that supposedly is only for core players who only want to play action shooters like Gears of War 3, there sure are a bucket load of colourful puzzles games available on Xbox Live Arcade. Strange as it sounds I think that it’s important to have a wide choice of games available on any system, for me a console that only has first person shooters would feel pretty dull when I’m in the mood for a platformer.
Space Ark for Xbox 360 is a very colourful and somewhat cutesy action puzzle title set in space. It appears that a rogue black hole is travelling aimlessly around the universe ravaging the very life from planets as it goes. Instead of falling down to their knees and praying to a God for salvation, a planet that is awaiting destruction assembles a crew of very lovely looking Astronaut Animals (Arkonauts) to blast off in a giant Wooden Space Ark. Their mission is to searching for new planets that can be terraformed into something more habitable.
Before this starts to sound too biblical don’t worry, this isn’t a game about religion. In all honesty I think the developers just needed a nice way to tell a story about Animals and Spaceships.
So cutting all of the story stuff away for a moment, let’s look at what the game really is. After you land on a barren planet your real goal is to make your Arkonaut jump around increasingly larger and more complicated areas on a futuristic trampoline called a jump pad. On the left Xbox 360 analogue stick you control the trampoline, you move it left and right in a breakout style fashion to bounce your Arkonaut back upwards. Your right analogue stick controls your Arkonaut himself; this allows you to choose the direction he jumps as well as how far.
Whilst jumping around your goal is to collect a whole host of green DNA pieces scattered across the screen without falling and hitting the nasty planet surface. It’s very important to keep a close check of where your character is falling and where in relation your trampoline is because if it’s not in the right position then it could very well be game over for you. Of course that would be simple on its own, things get harder when you’re required to not only collect all the DNA pieces from the screen but score a certain number of combos. Combos in Space Ark are usually simple to get as long as you can keep bouncing and collecting 3 or more DNA pieces in a row. If you miss the jump pad then all of your combos will scatter around and need to be collected before the float away, very reminiscent of when Sonic’s rings spill out when he takes a hit. Fruit pickups will often fall down from the heavens and if collected these will also help with your combos and overall score too.
Space Ark is no ground breaking game but is indeed a fun and deceivingly tricky little action puzzler. Keeping tabs of both your character and jump pad at the same time is a challenge and when the screen becomes very busy with platforms, DNA, Fruit and special items; it can start to become tricky to keep things under control. The Space Ark release date is June 16th and I’m sure that with its single player campaign, multiplayer mode and full online leaderboards that Space Ark for Xbox 360 could be a surprise XBLA hit this summer.