Once in Space


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PatrickOnce in Space is a downloadable puzzle-platform game for Windows, created by Hempuli, that delivers both content and charm. Set in deep space, you are a lone astronaut trying to collect stars and reach the flag on different constellations of rock. You can change your gravity orientation by walking around corners, and you must be facing the arrow direction of a star in order to collect it. The first level eases you into the game's mechanics pretty easily. Use the [arrow] keys to move left and right, [shift] to jump and [control] to change gravity when near a red corner.

onceinspace.gifThe music (composed by Nifflas of Knytt fame) and particle effects take a simple geometric concept and deliver it as a holistically soothing trip through the cosmos. Unfortunately this aesthetic is thwarted by an atavistic design decision. In this case, atavistic means taking a step back on the evolutionary ladder, pushing Once in Space back to the early days of video gaming.

Giving the player only three lives, lost when you step off into the void or collide with plasma, makes sense from a traditional perspective because it prevents the player from running through the puzzles by dying and re-spawning after getting hard-to-reach stars. But the mechanic of killing players and removing some of their progress is a hold-over from the quarter-munching days of arcade machines. Now, when many games are free, this is not only useless, it's almost malignant and takes what should be a smooth, relaxing, mind-expanding experience and throws in the probability of frustration loops. Doing the same tasks over and over again until they become menial isn't what games are about any more. You begin to wonder why the game isn't called "Many Times in Space".

Overall, however, Once in Space is a great way to spend some of your Saturday afternoon. The music, atmosphere and overall concept are enjoyable, and if you're extraordinarily skilled or have a high level of patience, you'll love it even more.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

23 Comments

Woah, definitely more complicated then it appears. It's a tricky puzzle game cleverly disguised as a platformer.

I love the graphics and the music, although the actual gameplay makes me a little dizzy. Pretty fine entry nevertheless.

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How could they post it and not mention it was made by Hempuli?

mmmh, oh well...

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I don't like how many newer games get trashed when they try to inject a certain level of difficulty in them. Saying that this kind of thing is "useless" and "malignant" is downright preposterous - so many of later games are designed in such a way that the casualest and laziest of players can finish them with their eyes closed.

When it did become bad manners to actually require some effort and perserverance on the player's part to successfully beat the game? Do we really need a "Quicksave", prolonged tutorials and infinite lives to deem a game worth playing?

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I thought the game would make you start all over at the beginning based on that review. It just makes you start over at each level. How is that bad?

I love the hard levels. A great challenge and an excellent game.

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The review neglected to mention that you're only sent back to the beginning of the (small) level if you run out of lives. And it saves every time you complete a level. This is actually quite generous, and puts it solidly within the realm of games that can be played in small bits and take care to not punish you for dying!

Now, the too-fast jumping annoys me quite a bit. Perhaps I'll get used to it if I play more, but my first impression is that I die more often from the controls than from the obstacles.

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Limiting the number of lives is a cop-out way of making a game difficult. It's fake difficulty. If your levels are easy enough to pass that going back to square one doesn't cause a player to throw his or her computer out the window in frustration, then you should design harder levels.

Games like N would be pointless without an infinite number of retries, or at least pointless to anyone with a finite amount of spare time on their hands. Puzzlers especially suffer from this mechanic -- the difficulty is mental, not manual, and replaying the earlier levels is particularly trivial, yet still time-consuming.

Yes, there are exceptions -- games of endurance, or games which do not play the same each time through (this springs to mind), but judging from the description (I haven't played it yet) Once In Space does nto seem to fall ito that category.

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Ah, Alice's comment appeared while I was composing mine. That is a good and valid mechanic.

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Yeah, those comments are really worth some discussion I think... are we making the claim here that difficulty is only part of a game's design insofar as it is necessary to take people's money?

I think difficulty is a legit design element in a game and that developers shouldn't be excoriated for making you work for it, as was said above. It's true that some games are now more of an art experience in a more literal sense, where the point is just to sort of be in the game, and that's legitimate too. But one of the things that I think is really cool about video games is that even those old games from the 80s with shitty graphics and horrid music (I know we love them anyway, but it's true) still manage to be art in my opinion, and it's because of the gameplay. How do you walk that fine line between a well-thought-out challenge designed to be very difficult yet ultimately completable and an unplanned mess?

Now that is definitely as much art as atmospheric considerations I think. Let's not forget where we came from here.

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Well, all the comments so far are only about having 3 lives to complete levels. The game has interesting graphics and good music, and it is mix of platform and puzzle games. Maybe too difficult for my personal taste, I mean I like the puzzle part but its too easy press wrong button and fly into space. At least there is no timer to bother me.

I have not managed to get very far in the game and I find the linear appearance of levels more annoying then 3 lives per level. Once one of the levels is too hard for me, there simply isnt anything else to do then keep trying and failing. I wish there could be about 3 unfinished levels available so if you fail in one of them you can still play others.

Since there is no timer, there is also no score to improve so once you finished the level there is little point going back and go through it again. Also, it is puzzle game, once you figured out how to beat the level it is matter of performing the movements exactly as needed. So replay value gets lost on finished levels.

Now, there is not time to beat, there is no score to improve, only thing left is to finish each level. If it had unlimited amount of lives on each level, you could very easily cheat through them, jumping into star and flying off to the space. Most games with unlimited tries still include some sort of penalty for failing or bonus for finishing without deaths.

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About that 'fake difficulty', it's there just to avoid people that get a hard-to-get star and then kill themselves to get away from the place they are. Sometimes I've done so that you need to think about the way you go back from the star, so this would be totally spoiled if I made there infinite lives. By myself I think that they make no 'fake difficulty', they're a part of the game.

And sorry for that 'quick-jumping', the gravity-changing needed a special platform engine, and I couldn't find a good way to make the gravity lower. I hope this doesn't totally spoil your gaming fun.

If you think the game's too frustrating or hard, I can't do anything to that. Actually I like challenging games ;)

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Hempuli, couldn't you simply make it so that any stars collected before death would re-appear if you died, so that you would have to collect them again?

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He does, zxo. After you've lost your three lives, that's what happens. All of the stars in the level you're in re-appear.

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Hmmmm, I take that back. After playing a little more, I found that in essence that is what happens AFTER the three lives have been used up per level. But then I wonder why you would allow three chances at all? It seems that a player can kill himself intentionally up to 2 times before the level resets. Perhaps in later levels this is the only way to pass the level? From your comments it doesn't seem like that is the case.

Anyway, it's always nice to see a game's author over here on Jayisgames! And I do think that the game mechanic is quite clever and makes for a quality game experience for people who have better reflexes than me :)

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Thanks from that kind comment!
Yeah, I didn't want to create this game so that you should kill yourself if you want to get a star; that would've been ridiculous IMO (or malignant as JohnB said it). I don't think it's very malignant to demand the player to not cheat.

And, tonypa, you're right, now when I think about it it feels stupid that you can't complete them in any order.
But if you can't complete the normal levels, there's 5 secret levels accessible from one of the earlier levels.

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Hey, I think Patrick wrote this review, not JohnB.

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Thanks, Psychotronic, I just fixed that.

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Emerald Hawk December 15, 2007 11:59 PM

Great game, and I wouldn't mind starting each level over after 3 lives... except that the last star in level 10 is not a puzzle to get, just an annoying test of reflexes against the too-strong gravity. The margin of error for falling off the last platform, waiting past the blue stuff then going left to land seems like it's about 2 tenths of a second. I think the "disguise" of a platformer was a bit too good in this case, as I felt the exact same rage I feel at frustrating platform games. It's a pity since the first 9 levels were more like puzzlers and the platforming mechanic was not too hard. As I get further in to levels 11 and 12, more and more of my deaths are to not having fast enough reflexes for the super quick gravity, rather than bad puzzle solving skills.

I love the concept though, so I hope my comments are constructive.

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For that last star in level 10 (if I knew which star you meant), there's also a way to get it where you mustn't kill yourself in that plasma or anything. Don't approach it from left!

And for the later levels, in level 11 for example, I couldn't even find a place where the high gravity would be a problem! Neither in number 12. This may be because I'm used to the gravity though.

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seems like my latest post didn't appear. Meh.
Anyway, the homepage of mine and OiS are now available at http://koti.mbnet.fi/arvitei/sivu/

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I still like the game, I'm almost done with finishing all the levels on hard, and I have one small question:

Did the mechanism of finding secret levels really have to be that idiotic??

I mean, there had to be a better way then "hey, let's force a player to blind-jump everywhere trying to find invisible platforms!". Come on, they could have at least lighted up when I jump on them, anything. Dying 413 times because I keep missing a jump from a platform I don't see to a platform I don't see... very unfun.

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Wow. Nobody has commented on this game in a long time. Anyway, I like it. Level 12 on the Hard difficulty is impossible. Anybody got any tips? I've beaten all the other levels on hard, just can't get 12.

Also, how is it that I only have that one level left to beat and I'm only at 58% complete?

One other thing. This game would be better if there was a slight delay from dieing before the next guy spawns. It's really annoying to die and then have the action you were trying to perform carry over to the guy that spawns instantly and then have that guy die as well. Other than that, it's a fun game.

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I agree with Crow
Level 12 hard is impossible (almost) and I can't complete it.

A great game all around, however.

2 bugs I found in version 2.0:
Go to 7 on hard, get upside down, get onto the top-most block, with the 2 enemies spinning around it, try to walk around the corner as one enemy is there, you will lose all 3 lives at once. Might apply elsewhere, not sure.
Level 12, walk right, jump over the gap, walk off the edge (dont turn gravity) you can jump off invisible platforms. Again, might apply elsewhere, not sure.

I think the 3 lives system is fine, gives you a little leeway to make some mistakes. What you could do tho, is add a reward that you can only earn with all 3 lives intact - change the stars on the level select GOLD for example. Adds the incentive to perfect your attempts.

So, any tips for 12-Hard?
Also how to find the secret levels?

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Scratch that last one, found all the secret levels.
Not a fan of the invisible block puzzles, but when I realised the trick to secret 3, i thought it was very clever.

Still struggling with 12-Hard.

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