Violet: Space Mission
Retrieving information caches from the debris strewn depths of space is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. In Violet:space Mission, a new Android title from Pinata Studios, that someone is you. Armed only with a propulsion pack you have to maneuver your astronaut through a gauntlet of asteroids, space junk and other debris in order to collect the caches. Venturing further away from your ship is also a calculated risk as the fuel in your propulsion pack is finite.
Violet: Space Mission offers a nice alternative to the hordes of endless runners and tower defense titles currently dominating the Android market. Although the concept of the game is very straightforward, it is anything but easy, which makes it both infuriating and addictive. Each mission in the game presents you with a map showing the debris filled sector of space you will be operating in and how many information caches you have to retrieve. During the mission you can bring up the map again at the touch of a button, and while it is handy for orienting yourself, you cannot navigate from the map screen.
The game uses 2D visuals to represent your astronaut as well as their surroundings. The hand drawn art is quite sharp, even on a large tablet screen and I had no trouble following the action. Initial levels feature very little debris between you and your objectives, but as you complete the levels the challenge increases exponentially. What was initially only a single pickup soon turns into three and those static asteroids soon begin to drift around or even spin around in huge chains. Gas clouds and planetary atmospheres also start to obscure your visibility, which further complicates things. In addition to keeping an eye on your fuel levels your astronaut can only take so many hits and bumps from debris before their suit is ruptured. Unlike fuel, which can be replenished from the canisters that are floating around the levels, damage is permanent and cannot be repaired. While running out of fuel was my biggest problem initially, once I mastered the art of picking up new fuel canisters it was damage that was my biggest foe on later levels. Even just lightly touching a bit of debris can cause damage and if you slam into something large at high velocity you can kiss most of your health goodbye. It is certainly frustrating to get hit by something and die after carefully inching your way back to your ship, but successfully navigating an asteroid field with only a sliver of health left is quite a thrill.
Although contact with anything except fuel canisters or information caches is ill advised, later levels introduce pieces of debris, marked with a green hand print, which can be bumped into without taking damage. These are essential for getting close to information caches that are blocked off by other debris as it can be used as a type of battering ram. Considering how difficult it is to come to a stop in the frictionless depths of space you have your work cut out for you on levels where rotating asteroids only provide momentary gaps through which to boost in order to get to your goals. Simply collecting all the information caches is not enough either as you will also have to return to the safety of your ship in order to clear the level. Successfully clearing a level is already quite a feat, but for extra bragging rights you can also aim for the quickest possible time.
The controls in Violet: Space Mission can be tricky to master as you only have direct control over boosting left, right and forward. Avoiding debris or, heaven forbid, turning around requires careful maneuvering and a steady hand. Expect to spin out of control and smash into plenty of space junk until this skill is mastered. While this means that the game is initially quite frustrating, levels are generally short enough that you can immediately jump back in for another try. Taking a break after repeated failures is recommended though as there are levels that can feel impossible until you manage to do everything just right. Some of the later levels, which feel more like mazes than random debris fields are especially challenging.
The audio in Violet: Space Mission is perfectly suited to the game and features one unobtrusive background tune. You’ll also hear a sonar-like ‘ping’ to signify the location of the information and a warning noise when your astronaut is low on health. The latter can be nerve-wracking, but adds to the tension of the game. The touchscreen controls are responsive, but as I mentioned earlier, there is definitely a learning curve to effectively maneuver your astronaut.
Navigating the tranquil depths of space might sound like a relaxing experience, but Violet: Space Mission is anything but soothing. It is however, quite addictive despite the challenging gameplay and is a great title for players who want to have their skills tested. Completing all the levels should take players quite a while and the time element adds some extra replay value. The game hints at a storyline about space stations that have mysteriously gone offline, but apart from some brief text before each mission the plot is never really fleshed out. However, this is the type of game that is enjoyable without requiring an in-depth backstory. Violet: Space Mission provided me with plenty of entertainment on the occasions I didn’t have access to my gaming PC and I can definitely recommend it to Android gamers.