Comrades In Space
HIGH Original and unusual!
LOW The levels with asteroids and icy connectors and incoming fire.
WTF How are they growing potatoes out here?
Poland wasn’t on my radar too often before I started doing game reviews, but it’s impossible not to take notice of it now. From huge triple-A experiences to intriguing indies, there are tons of worthwhile titles being crafted there. I don’t know much about the country itself or why their dev scene is booming, but I’m glad that it is. The latest gem to make an appearance is Kosmokrats, the first offering from Olztyn-based Pixel Delusion.
Kosmokrats puts the player in the role of a potato peeler – the lowest-ranking crewmate on a spaceship populated by a group who seems inspired by Cold War-era Soviets. They’re in a space race with the Capitalists (their name is always displayed in red, white and blue font — a nice touch) and there’s been a problem with staffing.
The goal of the comrades is to assemble space stations and ships in zero-G before the Capitalists do, and this is done by using a remote drone to push and pull puzzle-shaped pieces together. Unfortunately, the drone pilot is knocked out of service and the Peeler is forcibly volunteered to take his place. After just a few minutes of training, the entire mission depends on them.
With Kosmokrats, Pixel Delusion has crafted a three-pronged experience which ends up being successful and interesting on all counts.
The first prong is the spaceship assembling. Using the drone to shove and tug components into alignment with each other is great – it’s easy to spin a piece out of control since there’s no friction to slow things down and some of the bits are shaped in ways that require finicky maneuvering, but when two parts chonk home and fuse together, it’s deeply satisfying. It’s an easy concept to grasp, but things do get more complicated when other elements come into play like time limits, trying to avoid damage, incoming asteroids and more.
Upping the stakes is that the player must manage limited resources. If the Peeler accidentally smashes an external potato storage device mounted on the side of a piece being shepherded, the crew has less food to eat. If they’re careless and crushes a fellow comrade while they’re spacewalking, there’s one less pair of hands to help out.
There’s also an ingenious randomized element to each craft the Peeler must assemble. To my eye, no two ships were ever alike, and in levels where I performed horribly and wanted to restart, the ship pieces, overall design and various components were shuffled and different. Simply memorizing how parts fit together isn’t an option, so each new job is a dynamic exercise in making it work. That said, some assignments are easier than others, and I had to restart a handful of times in hopes of randomly getting a simpler ship to build, or one that was less difficult to manipulate.
The second prong of Kosmokrats is political commentary. It’s obviously a take on the old Soviet Union and their imperfectly-applied Communism running neck-and-neck with money-blinded Americans who have no qualms about abandoning their men when it’s not cost-efficient to save them. With so few games these days being open about their political leanings, getting a story like this was refreshing and honest, not to mention the fact that it’s quite funny to boot.
The final prong is what really put this experience over the top for me – the branching storyline. Not only does progress in the campaign depend on how well the Peeler does at assembling ships (Did the crew starve? Are there any crew left?) there are also choices to be made via text and action. Depending on these decisions, Kosmokrats can end in many different ways, some much darker than others. On the plus side, if things turn into a disaster, the developers have included a function that allows players to ‘rewind’ the story and steer things differently. They’ll likely have to replay a few levels since the option isn’t granular, but it’s much, much better than making one wrong call and getting kicked back to the start.
Kosmokrats is an incredibly strong debut from a brand-new studio, and I had a wonderful time with the comrades and their journey through space. The gameplay was engaging, the jokes were good, and I was absolutely invested in the fate of the Peeler and their crewmates. This well-crafted work doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre, but becomes a noteworthy, standout release because of it. Whatever Pixel Delusion does next, I’m in.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Pixel Delusion and published by Modern Wolf. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 15 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 M and contains Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Violence. Some cosmonauts do get squished in space and there are some violent acts in the cutscenes. There’s a romantic storyline between two characters and handcuffs are mentioned. Vodka is available to buy and the player can drink it. The M is technically correct, but even with all of this, it still feels fairly lighthearted and comedic.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the entire game on mute and had no problems at all. All dialogue is accompanied by text (it is not able to be resized or altered, see examples above) and there are no audio cues needed for gameplay. This title is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. During gameplay sections, the drone is moved with the left stick and pulling is done with one face button. During dialogue scenes, a face button advances text and confirms choices, another cancels, and the left stick moves the camera.