First of all, my little ones would NOT LET ME SURF AWAY FROM THIS GAME when they saw it on my computer screen. Thankfully, it was on sale for $2.99 …and it’s honestly great fun. Especially for younger gamers. My oldest is only 3 so he’s not quite a little gamer, but he does enjoy watching me play some games. If there’s enough funny noises going on and flashy colors, he gladly sits and puts his hands all over the screen in amazement. On to the review!

Space Ark is a puzzle game created by the indie studio Strawdog. It released a few months ago for Xbox Live Arcade and recently seems to have made it’s way to Steam, where I found it. The story is that you and your arkonaut are here to save these dead or dying planets. You do this by collecting DNA and fruit. The DNA gives you points to terraform the world while the fruit gives you bonuses to attracting life on the planet. I do admit that I was drawn to this story while purchasing the game. I’m always complaining to myself that there’s not enough peaceful video games. Fellow Peaceniks, don’t miss this cutsey puzzler.

The general gameplay revolves around bouncing your arkonaut into the air with this gel-like pad. He pounces on the pad, flips through the air, and catches as many DNA as he can. If you’re really good, you can chain combo his flips and jumps to collect a series of them! It was more suspenseful than I thought it would be, flipping a baby tiger into the air and it’s also not as easy as it seems, though I wouldn’t describe it as hard.

Interface

Clean, colorful, meaningful. All the things a good UI should be. The starter screen is quick, simple to understand, and fast to navigate. You’ll quickly find options, tutorials, and game modes right off the bat. The tutorial mode is clearly designed with younger users in mind. I say this because I just wanted to get right into the game, but it does a great job of introducing each individual concept during the gameplay. No one will be sitting and watching a tutorial. You’ll play right through it pretty seamlessly. Once you’re on a planet and begin DNA collection, the screen is very minimal while being extremely information rich. Most of what you need to know happens as you’re flying through the air; combos are held in your arkonaut’s hand, allowing you to easily keep track of your combos without removing your eyes from the action.

Controls & Gameplay

Just as with the interface, quick, easy, and intuitive. You get to control both the launch pad and the arkonaut separately with different controls. This allows you to move him through the air, but the caveat that you can’t forget to catch him. True to the spirit of the game, if you don’t catch your arkonaut he doesn’t die. He just drops the combos! You easily pick them back up and get back into flying through the air. If you string together enough combos, as you collect the DNA little pieces of delicious fruit appear in it’s place. Knock it down and catch it to increase your bonus. Once you successfully complete a stage by acquiring the required number of combos, you get to see the progress of the planet you’re terraforming. You’ll also unlock other gameplay modes like Time Attack or Survival. This little game manages to offer great variety and depth of gameplay. I’ve paid $30 bucks for some games that don’t do this much.

This is a great little game, especially for younger gamers, but I found it very entertaining even as an adult. At it’s core, it’s a puzzler and puzzle games are a favorite genre of me and my wife. To this day we bury ourselves in hours of Tetris. This game is a fine addition to that, but without all the intensity that comes with level 20 of cube locking. Great deal on Steam, great, well-made, solid game = support this indie studio. They clearly know how to create a game from start to finish with polish and without forgetting the fun.

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