We’ve never lost a man in space, and gosh darnit we’re not going to start now! It was with this kind of NASA-like zeal that we began our journey into outer space with the physics-based game Blast Off. Before long, however, minor frustrations drove off any hope of lasting interest.
You play as a spaceship that blasts off from Earth to fly around a series of planets, asteroids, and even black holes trying to rescue stray astronauts who seem to have gotten themselves in quite the interstellar pickle. They’re stranded in deep space, and only you can rescue them.
As compelling as this premise may be, the experience never really stuck with us. While there’s a satisfyingly large amount of content compared to many other games priced at $0.99, the core gameplay mechanic just feels a little broken. Most physics games have perfect physics that complement the gameplay in just the right way, but Blast Off’s physics feel just a little off.
Beware of adorable black holes.
It’s a small discrepancy, but it’s just enough that you’ll constantly be misjudging your approach to planets and get slammed into the surface. Gravity, in galactic terms, is an incredibly feeble force, but in Blast Off it will suck you in like a Hoover vacuum from across the solar system. It’s not that we’re demanding the developer be hyper-realistic in a quirky little game like this, but the point is that the mechanic simply isn’t very intuitive.
It may seem like a small issue, but when you can’t execute simple moves that should be relatively easy (such as slingshotting around a planet) it becomes significant. Slingshots are quite difficult, since most planets will drag you down to the surface rather than propel you forward. It’s even more confusing when the gravity of the planets acts differently on all objects. Some objects will slowly orbit a planet with no problem, and yet when you try to orbit the same planet at the same speed, you’ll end up leaving nothing but a crater.
Warning: Rocket may not be proportional to Earth.
Blast Off comes with two modes: Classic and Endless. The former is a series of challenges in which players try to maneuver their ship through the gravitational fields to rescue free-floating astronauts and make it to the goal without running out of air or fuel.
Endless is just what it sounds like. It gives you a level to romp around in, and you must save as many of the constantly spawning astronauts as you can, while managing your air and fuel with powerups throughout the level. There are about 35 levels in the classic mode, which probably won’t take more than half an hour the first time through, but meeting the challenge score in each level will take a good deal longer.
Considering that most $0.99 apps would only offer something akin to the Endless Mode and call it a day, we’re grateful for the added content, but there’s just not enough to fully make up for the lackluster central gameplay. Discerning fans of physics games will probably be disappointed, but for some, the allure of jetting around in space will overwhelm the gravitational quibbles.