Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Curved Space is a fun shoot-‘em-up that took me just a bit of time to warm up to, but once I did I could appreciate its novel approach to the genre, bringing something new to the table. Curved Space is a twin-stick shooter at heart, but actually makes the environment something you coast over as opposed to simply dodging it at the tops and bottoms of the screen. The formula works more often than not.
To start with, Curved Space is visually very cool to look at, simply because you have a slightly different perspective than most shooters. It was like someone took the concept of twin-stick shooters like Super Stardust HD and brought the camera down closer to the ship and added texture to the landscape. In shooters like the aforementioned Super Stardust HD, you generally zip around a large orb-like body, using one stick to steer and the other to shoot at enemies.
The same holds true here, but instead of the ten mile overview of the action, the camera is brought down closer to and behind your ship as you zip around these surfaces, which have bumps and nuance given the terrain a bit more to do here than in your standard side scroller where you are simply avoiding contact with terrain because it will kill you. It took a bit for me to wrap (pun intended) my head around the concept, but once it clicked – Curved Space is a lot of fun.
Beyond this novel bit of gameplay and presentation, Curved Space is pretty much standard fair for the shooter genre. There is actually a pretty cool story (something of a novelty in these arcade style titles) that can take a few unexpected twists and turns while encouraging some replay with different endings. There is also a nice variety of weapons that beg for experimentation, from lasers to flamethrowers and more. Additionally, there are two unique extra attacks provided.
One is a hyper mode that allows you unlimited ammo of your chosen weapon for a brief time, allowing you to roll out a lot of carnage for a bit. The other is a sort of tethering system that allows you to bind enemies to anchor points in the stage (and to one another in a chain) that drains them and fuels the previously discussed overdrive ability. It also keeps them in place, making them easier to shoot down later.
The soundtrack and overall audio effects range from decent to great depending on the stage. While I didn’t necessarily get any of the songs lodged in my head once I turned Curved Space off, they were generally the sort of fast-paced tracks the complemented the frenetic pacing of the gameplay. The narrative with its various endings and twists are supported by some solid voice acting – again, not normally a hallmark for this genre but welcome all the same. This combined with the visual style make Curved Space pleasant to play, even if it’s not a technical marvel on the presentation front.
There are small things that hold Curved Space back a bit though as well. Shoot-‘em-ups often rely on visibility. You see the obstacles and the enemies and perhaps most importantly, the bullets, coming at you from all sides. The forced perspective from where the camera is at does sometimes make it so I don’t quite have as good a view of my periphery as I would have liked, leading to some annoying deaths that I literally didn’t see coming once in a while.
Also some of the stages can be a bit tedious by the end of the level as you are trying to hunt down the remaining enemies and don’t quite have a great feel for where they are at on the field in relation to you. These are both fairly minor quibbles, but one that did drain some of the excitement out of the gameplay for me here and there.
Curved Space deserves credit for doing something interesting with its camera angle and use of landscape in a genre that doesn’t see a ton of innovation these days. The decent collection of enemies and solid number of weapons help to add some variety to what was otherwise somewhat slightly repetitive gameplay a few hours in. All of this is ably assisted though by a solid narrative told by some good voice acting that provides some replay value through its multiple endings. Curved Space is unlikely to bring new fans to the genre, but those who enjoy a good shooter should enjoy this offering.Score: 7 / 10