Space Grunts (PC Review)
In space, no one can hear you cry when you die. Permadeath is the curse of all things indie these days and developer Orangepixel is boarding the bandwagon with Space Grunts. You’ll either find Space Grunts to be a tolerable and fun affair or one which will have you pulling out every strand of hair from your skull out of torment and rage. This tough as nails turn based action game will take more than just your brawn to complete. With its retro 8-bit art style and arcade-like feel, Space Grunts is easy on the eyes and easy on the mind.
Jumping in Space Grunts provides a choice between three main stars of the show; The Captain, The Strongarm, and The Techjunky. With every class based mechanic, each grunt has their own advantages and disadvantages. However, some aren’t all that clear. The Captain has an increased loot drop to allow him greater diversity in terms of items on the field but lacks any substantial firepower and is horrible with anything technological. The Strongarm is you brawn over brains character, starting off with the most vitality and an increase in range for majority of weapons but doesn’t tend to do a great deal of damage; much like The Captain. The Techjunky however has a mediocre amount of health to begin with and has an advantage with tech weapons but also does greater damage with some more ballistic style weapons too (undefined by her stats) and tends to be an all-round good character. The Techjunky can also equal the Strongarm in health early on if you find a health upgrade loot drop.
So once you choose the obviously better candidate “The Techjunky” and you set your feet down on enemy territory you objective is to reach the main gate at the end of each randomly generated level, avoiding a plethora of enemies ranging from simple worms to gargantuan snarling beasts. Enemies each have their own style of attack, be it melee or ranged, but they all have one thing in common, they all have unpredictable amounts of health. The enemy difficulty increases with every stage segment you complete and will gradually change appearance too. These types of enemies, the ones that you can see a clear change in cosmetics, are predictable and you can often take care of them with ease but sometimes the calculated health and damage don’t match up properly leaving every encounter a bit more of a guessing game. When killing an enemy and roughly calculating they have between 3-4HP then entering an adjacent room (on the same stage) coming face to face with the exact same enemy for them to have slightly more health than you originally calculated takes a bit of strategy out of the equation.
The overall layout of the stages is in the shape of your typical top down dungeon crawler with a slightly difficult to read over head map. Totalling roughly 15 stages each divided into 5 different sections each with their own aesthetics – from ruined landscapes to alien installations. Some areas can also be interacted with if you have specific items, such as a Data Card, which grant you access to computer terminals that contain statistics on the monsters and environmental hazards that are sprawled across Space Grunts’ terrain. Having never made it to the end I cannot safely say what lies in store for any unwary adventurers who make it to the later stages with hopefully enough ammo to take on the most elite of elite enemies. Ammo preservation is one of my main gripes with Space Grunts, as the sheer randomness of how much ammo will drop in ratio to how many enemies you must face at once per floor with varying amounts of health can feel hopeless at times. The struggle is real when you are overcome with the feeling of inevitable failure as you slowly watch your ammunition dwindle and the enemy horde grow in size.
You can also participate in “daily runs” which set you against friend and foe alike to see who can conquer the leaderboards and be the best Space Grunt there ever was. In these daily runs you are only graded on how far you get and how fast you get there so any kills you accumulate will fail to impress. I am unsure if you are rewarded for your hard work in the daily runs as, once again, my skills are not up to par to beat it yet.
With all that there is on the indie marketplace, especially in the form of dungeon crawlers and roguelikes, Space Grunts is certainly one for those who consider themselves permadeath junkies or simply like the random uniqueness that roguelikes bring to their home screen. Space Grunts lacks content, often making you rage when you swear you worked out a legit strategy for it to just fall through the cracks. Quest of Dungeons comes to mind when playing Space Grunts. The familiar feel of 8-bit graphics and atmospheric music help lure you in but all in all Space Grunts still lacks the character and charm that made Quest of Dungeons so great and memorable.