Have you ever been driving with the family on a summer day, with all the windows rolled down, the dog sticking its head out the window, and everyone enjoying the breeze of the moving car? When all of a sudden, a bee flies in one of the windows, and everyone's panicking to get it out? I can't say I have, because I don't own a dog. I could venture a guess as to what it's like anyway, thanks to Evacuation, a new retro-styled puzzle game by Ryan Chisholm and Bennett Foddy, creator of QWOP.
Aliens have invaded your spaceship's cargo hold, and your job is to get rid of them, but without the aid of fancy guns that flash a few colorful lights before they vaporize their target. Instead, you harness the maze of gates in your cargo hold to suck the aliens back into outer space. Clicking on a colored gate will open all gates of the same color, and clicking an open gate will close the gates similarly. When a path of open gates leads to the outside air (or lack thereof), anything not tethered down (which is everything) will get sucked outside.
Also wandering around in the cargo hold are your crew members, necessary to keep the ship afloat. Clicking on a room places a flag there, and all capable crew members will work their way into that room. However, if they get caught by an alien, GULP!, they're gone. If they get sucked outside of the ship, EEEK!, they're gone. Most importantly, if an alien sneaks into the control room and consumes the ship's captain, GAAH!, it's all over. At least one crew member (the captain included) has to remain aboard the ship in order to win each level. If you can clear a level without losing a single crew member, you'll be rewarded with two extra crew members from a limited stockpile.
Analysis: On the one hand, Evacuation has a good blend of strategy and luck that makes each level a challenge to figure out. There's no time limit, so you're free to consider all of your options before choosing which gates to open. Tiny, visor-wearing lives are at stake here! On the other hand, some levels leave you feeling a bit too lucky. The level generator, which seems to be making up random levels following a pre-set difficulty curve of some sort, gives a few no-way-to-lose levels from time to time (for example, your captain being put in a room with all solid walls, with no way in or out). One thing that's not entirely clear is whether or not the movement of the aliens and crew members is pre-set or random, which could effect how one plays strategically.
The music does get grating after a bit, but ultimately, it helps to set up the feeling of futuristic-space-travel-attacked-by-aliens goodness. The retro Commodore 64-style graphics also help, with computer fonts and cute little spacemen walking around everywhere. Evacuation might not be the most complex game out there, but (WARNING! PUN AHEAD! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!) one thing's for sure... It'll definitely suck you in.
Hey, we tried.