The title of this piece may seem negative, but do not let it dissuade you. Though difficult, spaceBOUND is without a doubt one of the most refreshing, rewarding puzzle-platforming games I have played in some time. What’s more, is you do not have to go it alone.
At the heart of the game are two astronauts, stuck to each other by an oxygen tether. What this means for the player is that if they are separated, or one dies, it’s a speedy game over and restart of the current puzzle. If you play solo you control each through the standard WASD and arrow keys on a keyboard or each analog stick on a controller. The controls are smooth—almost too smooth at times—and the tether feels like a rubber band, adding a neat physics-based element to the gameplay. The first level has you slingshot off of a pipe in order to glide past giant metal pistons, which immediately hooked me because it is such a unique element for a puzzle game.
Much of spaceBOUND comes down to timing and learning the motion of various traps and weapons. Things that can kill you, one-shot you. The astronauts burst into a mess of red pixels (or other colors, depending on the costume) if float too close to a laser, shock-rope, or saw blades, among other deadly devices. As the astronauts, you must navigate further and further into a mine while avoiding these obstacles and use the environment to help solve puzzles. You will die plenty of times while playing spaceBOUND, but with every death comes a better understanding of what you need to do to advance.
The art is retro, which is in accordance with the old-fashioned, unforgiving gameplay. It works, and colors pop — especially that darn blood each time you get cut, zapped, or mashed to smithereens and the lime green of the oxygen tether. The mining equipment and traps all feel unique to the game as well, and the lighting often adds a nice ambient tone to the individual levels.
Like the visuals, spaceBOUND has a retro soundtrack. The sounds of synths accompany you while you dance with death in each stage, adding more to the sci-fi aesthetic of the game. You can buy it separately if you wish, and I loved how it blends nicely with the nerve-wracking gameplay. The soundtrack can be appreciated on its own and does not interfere with your concentration while you play.
There are several features the game that offer it a decent amount of replay value. Not only are there achievements, but a separate time trial mode exists as well, in addition to collectibles you can find if you are brave enough to explore each level. You can always go back to replay each map for a better time, though I have not found a way to reset the death-counter for each one.
If you are a fan of puzzle games, platformers, co-op, or any blend of the three, and are looking for a challenge, spaceBOUND is more than worth the price of admission. I have not yet finished the game, but plan to because its challenge is rewarding. The developers update the game pretty consistently and as needed, with the most recent being a free (!) set of Halloween skins for the astronauts.
I really dug my time with the game, and I think it is more than worth a try. It’s a great bonding experience if you’ve been looking for a new distraction to play with a friend.
spaceBOUND is available on Steam.