Developer Only By Midnight picks up the arcade shoot ’em up tradition with Curved Space, a space shooter that warps the playfield into various geometric shapes. With a large arsenal of unique weapons and an interesting story running through its campaign mode, this arcade throwback is a solid new entry into a genre that’s defined by nostalgia in modern times.
Interestingly, the playfields that give Curved Space its name are also one of its least notable aspects. In the early going, taking the Super Mario Galaxy planetoid concept into the SHUMP genre is novel, but Curved Space fails to do a lot with it. Players never chase enemies from one side of a level to another, the action generally stays stationary in a handful of objectives during each objective, and the game obviously gestures in the direction of anything that might otherwise be hidden by a curve. Less than an hour in, it’s easy to forget about this stage-based gimmick altogether.
RELATED: Cruis’n Blast’s Nintendo Switch Edition Will Get A Physical Release Thankfully, while the twisted battlefields may provide a selling point to draw players in, the pure arcade gameplay and interesting storytelling will keep them invested. Curved Space doles out new weapons constantly, and most represent a unique spin on genre staples. For every rocket launcher, there are tracker mines that keep up the pressure on bosses via swarming explosives.
For every plasma machine gun, there’s an energy whip that clears away waves of arachnoid enemies with ease. While some of the experimental weapons can’t compare to the pure stopping power of the flamethrower or the cutting laser, it never feels risky to pick up something new and give it a spin. Curved Space Black Hole Gameplay Weapons, health, and ammo pickups come from blasting away Spiders, the collective name for the galactic enemy force terrorizing Curved Space’s engineer protagonist.
Over the course of a run, the player gets perks to affect how often each item drops as well as amplify their ship with an extra weapon slot, more powerful weapons, or better shields. The upgrades come just as often as new weapons, to the point that the game feels downright easy on Normal difficulty. Anyone who can blast through something like Gradius without the Konami code will be more than ready for the harder iterations of the campaign, but Curved Space feels like an accessible game even when it’s cranked up. Storywise, Curved Space uses clever dimensional twists and a few reveals to provide a repeatable campaign with several different endings.
It’s not doing anything unfamiliar to arcade shooters of the past, but the better-than-average voice acting and the tone of the writing make Curved Space feel right at home in the roguelike sphere alongside games like Returnal. Curved Space Spiders Gameplay RELATED: Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX Review: The Return Of A Platforming Gem Besides the campaign, there’s a daily run to contend with and several other modes to keep things going past the credits.
When compared to how these types of games used to come home, Curved Space has all the modes of a classic arcade port, just without a cabinet to call its own. In a genre where many feel that they’ve seen it all, Curved Space succeeds in providing something new. The titular curves may not be a huge innovation, but the game borrows enough from its procedural cousins to make its shooting feel refreshing. Curved Space likely isn’t going to win over anyone who prefers something more than a high score chase, but anyone cruising a list of ROMs more than a digital storefront will probably want to give this one a look.