words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Jonas Andersson for Xbox 360, originally released in 2011.
Spacecraft is the result of a number of gameplay iterations over the span of three games. The game began its life as Superspace in 2009, upon which further refinements were added to the sequel, Superspace 2, in 2010 (you can read more about these games in the 2D CRED section below). Finally, the game received a major overhaul in the control department and the developer opted to take advantage of the popular “-craft” suffix for his first release outside of the Superspace brand.

Spacecraft is a gravity-based spaceship game where the player is tasked with navigating treacherous environments to recover crates and bring them back to base using a grappling hook. This is somewhat similar to the gameplay in Thrust and Gravitron, except that there is less of an emphasis on time or speed, and there is very little resource management.

Fuel is unlimited, although there is a secondary turbo ability that allows you to greatly increase your speed while simultaneously draining your fuel meter. Firing weapons also drains your fuel meter, with the more powerful weapons using up more fuel. However, fuel replenishes automatically so long as you are not firing or using your thrusters. As such, you can generally find a safe spot in which to recover your fuel meter.

Health, on the other hand, does not regenerate, and your health meter can be drained surprisingly quickly. On very rare occasions, you’ll find a floating red cross that restores your health, but you are mostly stuck with your starting allotment for the duration of the level. If your health meter falls below the halfway mark, you can return to base to bump it back up to half, but that's it. Many enemies have laser or rocket attacks that can kill you instantly, and even the pea-shooter enemies can put an end to your fun if you get hit with several of their bullets at once. Running into enemies or objects will deplete your health meter as well, so you generally need to be quick yet precise in your flying.

The biggest change in this game compared to its predecessors is the control scheme. Instead of using the left stick to rotate your ship and a THRUST button to move, you have direct control over your ship with the left stick, ala the PixelJunk Shooter series. This makes the ship far more maneuverable and responsive, and greatly increases the pace of the game, since you can reliably fly around corners and change directions at a moment’s notice. This also allows for weapon fire to be assigned to the right stick (rather than rotating your ship in the direction you wish to fire), which means that you can fire in one direction while moving in another, and you can strafe your targets.

There are 4 weapons at your disposal, which may be cycled using the bumpers. All 4 have infinite ammo, but they each function differently and use a different amount of the fuel gauge. All of the projectiles will travel in a straight line until they reach an enemy or other solid object.

By default, you’ll start each level with a pea-shooter weapon that fires rapidly and uses very little of the fuel meter, but doesn’t do a great deal of damage. This weapon is useful if you’re trying to conserve fuel, but the low amount of damage means that your enemies could kill you before you manage to whittle their health down. However, the weapon is quite useful in later levels where you face off against infinitely-spawning enemies that can be destroyed in a single hit. Also, by pressing the B button, you can fire off a ring of these tiny bullets in all directions, but it is not a terribly useful attack.

The next most powerful weapon is a yellow laser that causes more damage, and these projectiles move faster. However, it depletes your fuel gauge more quickly.

The red laser is very similar to the yellow, but it fires more slowly, uses more of the fuel gauge, and is somewhat more powerful. This is a useful weapon when firing at turrets that have the capability of killing you in one hit.

Finally, there are the rockets. These fire very slowly, building up speed as they thrust along. They cause a huge explosion, with a sizeable splash effect. Because they use so much of the fuel meter, it’s impossible to fire two of these projectiles in succession, so you will be left temporarily vulnerable between shots. You’ll need pretty good aim if you wish to use these with any kind of regularity; otherwise, you’re best sticking with one of the lasers.

In addition to these weapons, you have a defensive ability called a Shockwave. The Shockwave will deflect any enemy projectiles nearby, sending them straight back to the source. While it is possible to use enemy projectiles to destroy turrets, it’s really meant more as a last-minute shield that can stave off danger if you find yourself under a barrage of enemy fire. This also allows you to fly down narrow corridors into enemy fire, so long as you keep moving and time your deflection properly. Given your ship’s weak constitution, there’s no other way to survive a head-on run into enemy fire. The Shockwave also works against object in the environment, so it you can use it to push rocks and crates away from you.

Finally, there is the grappling hook. You must use the grappling hook to carry large crates back to your base. Small crates can be picked up with your ship, but they’ll be dropped if you take a hit or run into a wall, but you are free to use the grappling hook for these as well. There are also TNT crates that will explode if you run them into something while carrying them.

The grappling hook is entirely physics-based, so when it is deployed, it will simply float for a moment before gravity pulls it downward. You can also maneuver your ship to fling the grapple in one direction or another, or to swing it around your ship. If you press the GRAPPLE button a second time, whatever object you are holding will be dropped, but it will maintain its momentum, meaning that you can fling objects toward a specific target. Pressing the GRAPPLE button a third time will retract the grappling hook altogether.

Crates aren’t the only thing you can use your grappling hook to manipulate; any unattached object in the environment can be grappled, and all of these interactions are physics-based. The heavier an object is, the more thrust you will need to move it. But you can drive your ship into long concrete beams, or grapple them to move them out of the way, thereby opening up a new passage, or dropping them between you and an enemy. Heavy beams will tumble under their own weight, bouncing off of solid objects and eventually coming to rest wherever gravity pulls them.

There are 24 levels in the game, divided 6 each into Easy, Medium, Hard, and Impossible headings. However, you must complete all of the levels in chronological order; you may not skip from one to the next until you have completed the level, at which point you can access it from the level select screen. There are also 6 racing levels, which task the player with flying through checkpoints in a prescribed order. There are no opponents unless you’re playing in 2P mode, which is far more entertaining since you can actively work to prevent your opponent from navigating the level. Weapons and grappling hooks are freely available in the racing levels as well.

The standard levels can be played in 2P as well in cooperative mode, which allows 2 players to go through the entire campaign together. If one player is killed, the other player can grapple the destroyed ship and tow it back to base to be repaired, which will restore its health meter back to the halfway mark. There is also a deathmatch mode which pits 2 players against each other in a splitscreen environment, each attempting to get the highest number of kills.

Spacecraft was developed by Jonas Andersson, a Sweden-based developer. As mentioned above, development of this title was an iterative process that spanned two previous games, Superspace and Superspace 2. There are a number of similarities between all 3 games, including weapons, mission objectives, level layouts, and multiplayer modes.

The original Superspace game has many of the fundamentals in place, although its overall presentation is somewhat more basic. The same gravity-based gameplay is in effect, with physics-based objects that can be grappled and a spaceship that can thrust around the environment destroying enemies and collecting crates to take back to base.

In the first game, the player has 5 weapons available, but only the pea shooter has infinite ammunition; the others have limited ammo, and there are ammo pickups to be found in the environments. The weapons also function somewhat differently. The yellow laser can bounce off of walls – which will hurt you if your shots are reflected back into your ship – and the red laser will actually push the ship backward when fired. The rocket operates very similarly, and the player can also dispense a floating mine, which will explode shortly after being “provoked” by hitting something or being fired upon. These mines appear in Spacecraft as well, but only as an enemy projectile.

The first game also gives the player a finite amount of fuel, but offers the ability to fly back to base to restore the ship’s fuel, and to fully replenish the health meter. Due to the finite ammo, none of the weapons deplete the fuel meter. And, in addition the ring of bullets for your pea-shooter, a 3-way shot is available.

The second game improves the presentation, bringing it pretty close to the look of Spacecraft. The same rotate/thrust control scheme also carries over from the first game, but the controls are somewhat tighter overall, and fuel auto-regenerates.

This time, the player has access to 6 weapons. The first 5 are the same as in the original and operate in the same way, but now the ship is equipped with a powerful solid laser blast that instantly traverses the screen when fired. Again, remnants of this weapon can be seen in some of Spacecraft’s laser-firing enemies.

The rest of the gameplay is very similar to the first, with finite ammo for all but your weakest weapon, health that can be restored at your base, and crates that need to be picked up and delivered.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted on April 8, 2011 at 3:05 PM

  2. Wowowow, this one looks great!
    Gotta check it out!

    ps: the comment above is from me, too bad that in my house people don't log out when giving the pc to someone else to use :s

    Posted on April 8, 2011 at 3:08 PM