||Premise: Have you longed for the joy of 2D Space RPGs like Star control or Masters of Orion? Well, after years of waiting, two man company MinMax have released S.P.A.Z. with the intention of reviving that sense of adventure! However, does it live up to the standards set for it, or fall into its own black hole?
Plot: The plot of S.P.A.Z. revolves around a somewhat dystopian future, with earth a backwater planet and scattered colonies all but cut off from each other by blockades. It's here that a group of pirates set out from earth in hopes of reaching the galactic core in search of a motherload of Rez, a transmutable element that serves as one of the game's currencies. While this plot is amusing and quite humorous at times, it won't win any Oscars. It features voice-overs on the "cut-scenes" that explain the plot, but the majority of the story will be delivered by RPG-esque text boxes. However, the plot is engaging and more than exiting enough to drive you to complete your objectives, if not only to blow stuff up! Overall: 8/10
Presentation: While S.P.A.Z. might look like a well made flash game at first, the true beauty of this game is in the details. Backgrounds are bright and colorful, often containing a myriad of nebulae, planets, and other cosmic beauties to catch your eye. The ships too are numerous and well made, having visible maneuvering thrusters (unlike many other games) and exploding with great fanfare of hull-breaches and escape pod ejections. Without revealing too much, I can say that the zombies too look fantastic, bits of ships mangled together with goo-like zombie "stuff", popping when you burst through them with weapons. The weapons too look great, especially beams! For a game like this, the eye-candy is almost never ending. Overall: 10/10
Gameplay: An RPG at heart, S.P.A.Z. features all of the feature you love, ship customization galore, research and leveling, even multiple currencies in the forms of Rez and goons (ship crew collected from escape pods). S.P.A.Z. also features an RTS-like tactical window, where you can give orders to your ships and tweak AI behavior. The UI is simple to navigate and easy to use, a rare feature in a game as deceptively deep as this. Controls are also responsive and easy, though it may take a bit to get used to the side thrusters as they are oriented to your ship and not the camera. There are currently five ship classes, ranging from tiny to huge with a wide variety of modules and upgrades. Each system in your randomly generated galaxy of up to 300 stars has two factions, Civilians and the UTA, that you can complete missions for (or stab them in the back for the loot). Gameplay starts fast and furious and gradually slows down, never quite descending to a grind-fest, but as you would expect with an RPG there is a certain amount of grinding. There is quite a lot to do in S.P.A.Z., and you would be hard-pressed to find a time with nothing to do. Overall: 9/10
Overall, S.P.A.Z. is an absolute steal for $15 on steam. You can easily find your weekends and free time lost to this game, but you will love it. As an added bonus, MinMax is still actively developing new content, so it can only get better from here.