A Babylon Zoo
HIGH Bite-sized arenas.
LOW Paying to reset skills.
WTF Calling the enemies ‘redbacks’.
Tortuga Team’s Spaceland wears its quality on its sleeve. It’s seen in the details — like how selecting something with a cursor never overshoots the mark, or how each character stomps across the grid once an action has been confirmed. These things just feel perfect, and on another website I’d write a whole article celebrating the refinement of those two features alone.
Spaceland is an isometric, turn-based strategy game. The story centers around the main character crash-landing on a planet overrun with antagonistic creatures. The plot provides just enough reason to go through 28 levels of squad shooting and that, honestly, was good enough for me.
The first few levels introduce the characters and their class-based abilities – initially the player has access to ‘machinegun sword guy that can dash’ and ‘shotgun guy with grenades’. Once established, Spaceland proceeds to never let up in terms of level design, character unlocks and sheer inventiveness.
One level has indestructible monsters that chase the party over minefields, another is a puzzle boss fight where each member of the squad has to work together to kick and detonate barrels to kill it, and then a later level splits three different ways requiring a medic, machine gunner and minigun marine to use their specialties to maneuver safely through.
It’s impressive that each level is kept so tight — none last more than 20 minutes, and this brevity was helpful because the leveling system and upgrades require replays. Beating a level in a certain number of turns, getting all squad members out alive, and/or finding hidden items are all goals. Completing these provides chips that can be put into a character’s skill tree, and money that can buy new weapons.
Engaging in this system is crucial as later levels are impossible without the extra firepower, and it’s my only gripe with Spaceland. On default, the campaign gets incredibly hard in the last four levels. The optimal way to beat these is to grind through earlier areas for upgrades or to reset skill trees. The second revisit to an already-finished level for upgrading purposes is novel when tackling new challenges, but any level loses its luster by the seventh or eight repeat.
Spaceland is a great game with a refreshingly tight approach to turn-based strategy. It’s very good as it is, but it could have been a classic if it got rid of the grind with just a bit of rebalancing.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Tortuga Team and published by Ellada Games. It is currently available on iOS, PC, PS4, Switch, XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBO-X. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+. The content is incredibly mild, there are allusions to death and some darker themes but any child over the age of ten is not going to have a problem with these as the violence is abstracted.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully playable without sound. The text cannot be resized, nor can the color be changed.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. These incredibly talented, monstrous devs did not provide a controller diagram. The left stick is used for navigating menu items and moving the cursor, the A button confirms options, the B button cancels, the X button is used for alternating between two menus/swapping weapons.
He can be found on twitter, where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.