Watch this space
Space is indeed a lonely place – a massive expanse of dark matter and black holes, countless stars, all those pretty planets and absolutely nobody to share it with. Perhaps this is why we spend so much time wondering if there are other life forms out there, and why nobody has bothered to set foot on any of the other planets. Why after all, would you want to travel halfway around the universe for a holiday on Mars if when you arrive, there’s no native tour guide to show you around or no local fisherman to take a photo of you and your mates?
These thoughts are probably racing through the mind of the pilot of the Walrus-Class Automated Vessel number 150 in ‘Lonely Ship’ as you embark on a journey through space to find and rescue the remnants of humanity after…well, the game doesn’t actually tell you why you’re scooting around searching for humans, it could be an alien invasion, an interstellar plague, or they could’ve taken the wrong motorway exit on the way to Margate and ended up on Jupiter.
It’s a simple endless flyer where you steer your tiny rescue vessel through the space, illuminating the darkness in small patches as you go, attempting to discover the truth about the post-apocalyptic universe while trying to stay alive and not crash into things. You know, like entire planets.
You navigate through the muddy depths by touching and dragging the screen. It’s endless, and you can head in any direction, but the floodlights on your ship only light the path you take directly in front of you, so once you veer off a particular course, it instantly darkens, meaning you can’t take in everything at once, and lending to the feeling of isolation.
Because of this simple mechanic, there’s a real feel of exploration – you might catch something out the corner of your eye as you change direction, but end up flying past it, hoping to catch it on another playthrough. Add to this the intriguing scraps of storyline fed to you bycollecting the message icons (aliens do emails too apparently), and you get the sense that there’s something bigger out there, that there’s a lot more information the game isn’t telling you. Especially as whoever is ordering you about says stuff like ‘By now you may be wondering about the status of vessels 1 to 149…the truth is, I don’t know their status. Heh.’
There aren’t any bombastic weapons attached to your ship, so it’s all about exploration and (hopefully) rescue. It’s more about avoiding danger, and figuring out why the heck you’re dodging danger in the first place. You collect gold rings, stars which help you become invincible from damage, and rack up your score the further into space you go. You also have set objectives for each new area you reach. Finding a service station isn’t one of them, but it should be. You think Walrus-Class Automated Vessel pilots don’t need to pee every now and then? Course they do.
Simple, but beautiful in their own way, Lonely Ship’s visuals manage to suck you in. Make no mistake, this is an uncomplicated casual title, but there’s a special quality to the way your headlights illuminate the swirling darkness of space.
Sound effects and music are lovely too. Strictly speaking, something a little more haunting to really push the theme of isolation would’ve been appropriate, but I think the developer might just want you to launch the app and play the game, not set up an Open University course about its motifs. Anyway, in complete contradiction to what I just said, the music here is actually quite lovely. One of your motivations becomes not just heading to a new level, but hearing what’s next with the melody.
‘Lonely Ship’ is a charming little game with seemingly hidden depths. There’s even a cool little replay feature where you can view your own playthroughs, and head to the Everplay website where you can check out other people’s attempts at trying to locate everyone else. You’d think with all that activity going on in space, you’d be bound to bump into someone sooner or later. It guess it proves one thing though – you’re not alone after all.