From World War 2 Bomber planes, to Faster than Light (FTL) spaceships, the team at Runner Duck Studios, creator of survival micro-sim Bomber Crew, have traded in their army green’s for Star Trek inspired uniforms and taken to galactic travel in the all-new sequel aptly named Space Crew. Will the studio have another indie darling on its hands like it did with Bomber Crew? Let’s boldly go into the details of this review!
For those that haven’t played Bomber Crew before, we’ll dive right into what Space Crew is all about, as both games share many similarities. You play as the captain of a new fancy starship that is a part of the U.D.F, aka United Defense Force. Alongside your tight knit crew you will be setting out to explore the galaxy, defend against the alien phasmids, and — much akin to Futurama’s Planet Express — you’ll frequently find yourself delivering a lot of goods.
The game falls into the survival simulation genre, with some roguelike elements, and it doesn’t take but a few nicely spaced (pun intended) tutorial missions in the beginning to get a solid understanding of the chaos that can erupt aboard a spaceship at any given point during your interstellar travels. As you launch from your Earth based space station, mission orders in hand, you’ll find that the game breaks out into two primary action phases that happen simultaneously. Part of your job as captain is to zoom your camera outside of the spaceship and plot FTL jump points, mark landing points, and target any incoming enemy fighters that may be patrolling the regions in which you find yourself in. This mechanic is straightforward and it’s also a great visual representation of how your ship is holding up, especially in tight combat situations. Should you find yourself in the precarious position of enemies boarding your ship, critical ship fires, or damage taking place to your hull, you’ll be poised to jump into the more simulation management aspect of your vessel.
When you zoom far enough into your spacecraft, your view will change to a more fixed isometric camera of inside your ship and that begins the second primary gameplay point. You’ll see your crew of adorable chibi-styled characters manning their posts, and from this stage there’s a lot you can do as the player, and where the true chaos can ensue in no time. Throughout your ship there are multiple stations that any of your crew can occupy, from weapons stations, to comms, the captains seat, etc. Each of your crew members have a specific role, and matching them up with their appropriate posts is certainly crucial to managing a well-oiled starship. However, given extreme circumstances that may occur, this isn’t always the case.
My first few missions I embarked on went off without a hitch. The game unlocked more and more options with each successful completion. After just a few times in space I was able to customize the gear and uniforms of my crew and next thing I knew, I was slapping on a new sweet paint scheme aboard my vessel “The Tin Crocodile” which was comedically auto-generated for me. With a seasoned crew in hand, and a sturdy craft built to explore the galaxy, I embarked on a rescue mission…and that’s when things went south quite fast, and I learned being in the Captain’s Chair meant so much more.
After jumping towards my next waypoint to Venus, a swarm of alien Phasmid fighters surrounded me and opened fire. Space Crew does not offer any sort of diplomatic solutions as far as I could tell, so immediately I was forced to move my Comms officer to my forward weapons array, and I re-routed power to my shields to help temper the mass volumes of incoming enemy fire I was taking.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I was struggling to hold off this enemy encounter, though. Fires were breaking out, which had me attempting to send my crew to the nearest fire extinguisher panels that were equipped on my ship. My lone mechanic was scrambling to stop radiation leaks and repair my severely damaged engines. All of this scuttling about inside the ship, requires a bit of a handful of control though, and it’s where the game struggles a bit. Selecting a specific crew member requires you to hold the B button while moving up or down on the D-pad. Then once a crew member is selected, to move them you need hold another button and move the control stick around to target their destination. Should you need to exit your interior view to lock onto more enemy targets, that’s also a multi-button execution. Even after a half dozen missions under my belt, this was the biggest challenge for me to manage during intense situations, where each second literally counted, as my comms officer lay dying on the deck of my starship. I wish there was a more accessible control scheme, but alas there just isn’t. If you’ve played Bomber Crew however, you’ll be right at home with familiarity, as the controls are basically identical.
My intense mission ended with me limping back to my home space station with a severely crippled ship, half my crew dead, and the rest seriously injured. No amount of med kits or sick bay time during the mission would help us entirely. Thankfully the mission was still considered a success, but I’d be forced to recruit new red suits.
This does lead me to the worst-case scenarios. Should your ship be lost, you can attempt to eject via escape pods that you can outfit your ship with as an upgrade. If your craft is destroyed, you’ll be outfitted with a new one, but you’ll lose your ship’s customization and upgrades you installed. The same goes for crew members killed. With each successful mission they rank up and gain better abilities, which I found quite helpful in my time in space. Starting fresh is tough that’s for sure. And in this sense the game touches on the roguelike experience of seeing how long your crew and ship can last before losing it all. Pushing your luck during missions for the fastest route to an objective often times comes with stiff penalties compared to a longer, but safer route. Space Crew doesn’t hold your hand long in terms of easy missions, and even ones that were flagged moderate, I found myself battling to maintain even the most basic of functions aboard my craft.
As you’ve read, Space Crew offers a lot to take on in the survival sim genre. Thankfully it’s all wrapped up in a very adorable, charming, and humorous package that makes this game a joy to play. It does get a bit grindy, and the missions aren’t quite as varied as I would hope, as I found myself handling a lot of delivery/fetch quest styled missions, but it never overly bothered me.
Finally, if you have played Bomber Crew it’s definitely worth saying that this is essentially an identical game to that, just set in space, with space-themed goodness. The menus, controls, progression, and game mechanics are all effectively the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn’t have minded a few more quality of life improvements to make gameplay a bit more seamless for me. There are some niceties, such as selecting ship items (like the fire extinguisher) now gives you a UI option to just go extinguish the fire instead of having to manually navigate to it, but this sequel does play it fairly safe so you’re in for a very familiar experience.
Donning look-alike Starfleet uniforms and taking on the galaxy in hopes of creating the most veteran salty Space Crew is a hefty challenge, but with plenty of rewards along the way. With cumbersome controls and too much the same as the last game, this one is worth considering for most Switch owners. I’d give it a slight bump in score if you’re completely new to the series as it will be a fresher experience for you.
Space Crew Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 6.5/106.5/10
- Gameplay - 6.5/106.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Space Crew, the sequel to Bomber Crew, pits players against the perils of space, managing their crew and spaceship and defending the galaxy from the Phasmids. The game feels less like a sequel, and more like a complete reskin and a version 1.5 from the original. The controls are still a bit complicated, but gameplay is engaging with a lot of micro management to be had, albeit a tad more grinding than I would have hoped for. If you haven’t played Bomber Crew, or you want a new theme for that game, then take to the stars and enjoy some Space Crew.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.