You wait cautiously, as a bright green ship prepares to deliver its payload and cash in its haul of hard earned gemstones. The trap is set, ready for you to spring forward scattering a laser-light show of plasma beams across the abyss of space, straight into the hull of the unsuspecting emerald craft. As the ill-fated victim crumbles from your savage ambush, the spoils of war begin to drift amongst the stars, ready for the taking. Don’t be too hasty to count your space coins though, as seconds later a marauding band of space pirates deliver some swift karmic justice, making short work of your own crimson shuttle in a hail of gunfire. Space is no picnic, and Cashtronauts aims to prove that only the wiliest of space capitalists will emerge victorious.
The basic concept of Cashtronauts has you competing (or co-operating) against other players as you attempt to accrue the most money from the opportunities floating around in space. Mine asteroids, raid space pirates, or rob your friends of their hard earned cash, all in the confines of a 2D slice of deep space. The game’s designer Simon Prefontaine describes it best as a ”Top down, twin stick, space-combat/trading party game with multiplayer”.
It’s an undoubtedly big list of interlocking features, enough to make me more than sceptical of what Prefontaine is hoping to achieve. Luckily, along with his Kickstarter campaign Simon has released an early demo version of the game to the public, with many of the basic features already in place for would-be naysayers like me to try out.
The first thing you notice is that the controls are tight, impressively so for such an early demo, and I’m instantly reminded of the slick sliding 2D movement found in twin stick shooters like Geometry Wars. The fact that it’s in space adds to the motion as well, with thrust and momentum playing a big factor in how you pilot your craft. The zero-gravity adds the feeling of flexibility that gives a great sense of feedback when you’re flying around.
Cashtronauts structures its gameplay around one of two game modes. Skirmish, which is currently the only available mode in the demo, is a local multiplayer versus mode in which up to 4 players vie for the highest score by the end of a timed round. The second mode is called Venture, and could be considered the game’s campaign. In Venture mode you have to get as far across the galaxy as possible, stopping in each system to gather up enough cash to afford the toll on the warp gates scattered across space.
Cashtronauts is shaping up to be a strange beast. I only spent a few minutes with the game and it was easy to pinpoint Prefontaine’s inspirations. The controls are already fine-tuned and as responsive as you could ask for, and the focus on local multiplayer in every aspect of the game could easily see this project become a great entry to your couch co-op line-up.
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