Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is an enchanting game. Depending on your compatibility with your friends and loved ones, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime may also be the rift that causes you to part ways.
In the future of a galaxy unlike our own, the League Of Very Empathetic Rescue Spacenauts operates the Ardor Reactor, which turns love into power. Unfortunately, the force known as anti-love forces its way in the Ardor Reactor, destroying it and spreading anti-love around the galaxy. In a prototype starship, it's up to a small crew of two to bring love back to the cosmos. Simple enough.
At its core, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a shooter. You move around each level, shooting foes, defending yourself, and freeing the requisite number of bunny or frog people to leave the level. What elevates Lovers is the game's unique control scheme.
In your tiny orb of a starship, there are seven stations that control different facets of your vessel: guns in all four cardinal directions, a movable shield, the ship's engines, and a single-use cannon. You only have two crew members and you can only attack, defend, or move if you have someone at the proper station. Each station is confined to its own room, so moving to a different station requires navigating a series of ladders and turns.
Proper play requires switching stations on the fly: moving the shields in the proper position, switching back to the engines, then changing to the southward weapon station to take down enemies below you as an example. Expert play requires working all the stations in tandem, making the inside of your starship as busy as the outside. It's not enough to know what you want to do, it's a matter of knowing which station you need to activate and how long it will take you to reach that station from your current position in the ship. You have seven stations and two characters: what do you do now?
In single player mode, you directly control one character, while a second AI character - your pet dog Doppler or pet cat Kepler - can be sent to certain stations with a simple button press and movement of the analog stick. The means you can focus on say, shooting, while your pet does its best to keep the shields pointed in the right direction. The AI companion is not as responsive as another player though. Playing single-player certainly doable, but it's feels like an extra option developer Asteroid Base threw in. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is meant to be played with someone else.
Lovers is a game purely about cooperative play. It wants you to work together with another person to overcome obstacles and achieve objectives. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime focuses on your relationship with your friend or loved one. If you're in the northward gun and your partner is handling the shields, what happens when you need to move the ship? Who is better placed to walk to the engine's station? If both players move, nothing is happening in the ship and valuable time is wasted.
Lovers wants you and your partner to collectively determine what needs to be done for both parties to succeed. Think of it as a gaming version of what happens in most relationships naturally. After some years in a committed relationship, perhaps you balance the checkbook while your husband plans the vacations. Maybe you cook dinner, while your wife washes the dishes. Your friend finds all the great places to go on the weekend, but you're the one who makes sure everyone gets home safely. Life is about delineation and sharing responsibility with those close to you. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is about that facet of humanity.
When you and your partner understand the game and each other, Lovers is an amazing experience. Each success brings you closer together. You move to the shields right when she guns the engines into a new area. Together you grab the north and east weapon stations, taking out a whole host of enemies. When it works, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime comes together like the Power Rangers, everyone in their spot and doing what they're supposed to do in perfect color coordination.
The problem is Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is based completely on who you're playing with.
Early on, you may be able to get away with not being completely on the same page as your partner. Things may get rough, but you can muddle through. Lovers spikes in difficulty through, meaning finishing some levels requires a precise understanding of who's doing what and when. This game gets far harder than the brightly-colored art style would suggest. It's not a bullet hell shooter, but it probably requires the same level of focus to finish certain levels.
Since you have be 10 or 15 minutes into a level before you die, Lovers can feel needlessly punitive at times. I question if these levels are designed to be a bit too tough for certain teams of two. Between controlling the ship itself, working together, and knowing what tactics are needed to get through certain enemies and areas, Lovers can get rather hectic. When the game throws in things like asteroids filled with ship-spinning water currents, you start to wonder if Asteroid Base has it out for your relationship.
Beyond the basic weapons and ship configurations, there's also some variety to be found. In each level, you'll find gems that can be installed in certain stations, either upgrading or changing that station's abilities. Your shields become larger, a gun turns into a spiked mace, or your engine exhaust drops caltrops. Eventually, you can install multiple gems, creating some interesting weapon combinations. You also unlock new ship types, with different room and station formations to test you and your partner.
If you have a great partner, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is an awesome coop shooter experience. By the end of the game's six hour story mode, good couples will be having a ton of fun. On the flipside, the frustration of failure can cause the game to go arwy if you and your partner are constantly at odds. I recommend playing this game, but only if you're absolutely know you and your partner are up to the challenge of working together. If not, I suggest you try something else.
Outside of a few counters, there's not much to the interface.
Once you've finished the campaign, you can jump back in with a different ship or collect all the bunnies/frogs in each level. That's it.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime has a great electronic soundtrack.
Bright neon colors and simple shapes means Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime doesn't look like anything else out now.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime isn't meant to be played alone. The game wants you to experience its trials and tribulations with a friend or loved one. The key is finding the right friend or loved one, because enjoying this game requires the right partner. Choose wisely and you'll have a great experience. Choose poorly and it's an exercise in frustration.