Station 38


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Rating: 3.8/5 (74 votes)
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zxoStation 38"Space," Douglas Adams famously wrote, "is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is." So when you receive a distress call from Station 38 in deep space, well, you've just gotta answer it! Yours might be the only ship for light-years around, so although it seems ill-equipped to handle the treacherous journey into the twisted bowels of the space station, it's your duty to make that very journey.

Pat Kemp's Station 38 puts you at the helm of a lander-type spacecraft, thrusting and sputtering its way through 38 levels in response to an SOS from deep within. Of course, landers aren't designed to careen willy-nilly through tight passageways, so you'll need to proceed with the caution of a 5-year-old heading off to school for the first time. Drag the mouse to set an initial trajectory, then release to launch the ship. Launching depletes your blue fuel gauge in proportion to the magnitude of your thrust. You may re-launch while in midair as often as you like until you run out of fuel. Luckily, landing your ship fully recharges your fuel for another leap.

The red gauge indicates the health of your craft, and unlike the fuel, your health can only go down. As mentioned before, landers are fragile things, and I think this one in particular is made out of porcelain and toothpicks. Smashing into any wall from any direction depletes your health, and how can you expect to offer assistance to those in distress when your own ship is just barely hobbling by? Best just to move slowly and safely from platform to platform if you want to be a hero ‒ little bumps don't cause any damage.

Every 10 levels, a new type of terrain is introduced. Pink plasma causes extra damage if you hit it; green rubber may be struck at any velocity without causing damage, but ricochets your lander away with a greater velocity; blue magnets grab your ship when you touch them, allowing your fuel to recharge without having to land on a horizontal surface.

Station 38Analysis: We've seen a couple of very nice games recently that have been built using Flixel, and Station 38 continues this trend. Like the others, the pixelated artwork draws you in immediately, and the first few levels serve as a nice, safe playground for you to practice launching, and more importantly, stopping. From there the levels ramp up to a pleasant difficulty ‒ hard enough to keep you engaged, but never really crossing into rage-quit territory

The levels themselves are smartly designed, taking full advantage of both the merry volatility of the fuel gauge and the solemn finitude of your craft's health, with the best levels pushing both to their limits. Often this is achieved through clever use of the special terrains. At first, it might seem that having terrain that never causes damage (bouncy green), or lets you recharge your fuel without truly landing (blue magnets) would make levels easier to complete, but more often than not they hinder rather than help. For example, the flip side of the green bouncy terrain is that you gain velocity, and since you always have to land at least once, you have to use your skills to slow your momentum in order to minimize damage to your craft.

What really sets Station 38 apart from other lander games is the nature of the fuel gauge. It elegantly imposes enough constraint that some forethought is necessary ‒ you might be able to simply wing your ship across a large gap, but such a move is pointless if it doesn't leave you with enough fuel to slow down when you've reached your target. At the same time, the game still provides plenty of leeway by letting you take as many jumps as you need, so you're not totally out of luck if your first jump wasn't quite what you planned it to be.

So what are you waiting for? Someone in Station 38 needs your help, and you'll never guess who it is!

Play Station 38

24 Comments

Why is there no level select or way to turn off sound? :(

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@gmpilot: Clicking outside the game area will pause it, allowing you to lower or raise the volume, and also to mute it.

I like this, but it's quite difficult.

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Or rather, Zero mutes, and Plus/Minus change the volume. The pause menu merely gives these controls.

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I like this sort of games! Loved Gravity Force on Amiga so much. This one is bringing back the good old times in a refreshing new way.

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Difficult at times, but fun.

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This is quite addicting. The first ten levels are easy, but the introduction of the plasma barriers kicks things up a notch, so to speak.

It is difficult, but I always find myself thinking I can get a particularly tricky level if only I gave it one more shot.

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Hmm... this game does not appear to offer an option to continue where you left off. There is no level menu, no passwords, nothing. So you either have to play all the levels through in one sitting, or you are doomed to repeat all the levels every time you play.

That pretty much "breaks" the game for me. As a casual gamer, I don't have time to sit there and play through however many levels there are. Thanks, but no thanks.

Am I wrong on this? Did I miss a level menu somewhere?

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Awww man.. That ending is so depressing.

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The physics in this game seem like lunar landers, but they're subtly misleading. The game ignores conservation of energy, which is too bad.

For example - you can get a lot more height by 'double boosting' in quick succession. Each boost adds a certain amount to your upwards velocity, so the quicker you time the boosts, the faster you'll end up going. In real life, each subsequent boost would only add a bit more to your top speed, since KE=1/2mv^2

Sorry for the nerding. But it's something many people misunderstand, with serious results. Think highway speed limits.

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Black Drazon Author Profile Page September 15, 2009 12:22 PM

Ew, I do not like how little attention was paid to making the flixel-randomized tiles look like they actually belong together. Some of the parts in this look like some sort of beige web rather than space debris or... no, seriously, it looks like a web and I can't really conclude otherwise. It's not that hard to make a connective shape with it, people have been doing it ever since the engine came out. I'm not really a stickler for graphics but for some reason this bothers me.

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The ending makes the game feel not worth it

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I gave up near the start. How does it end? That was really the only reason I played at all. I want to know.

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It was fun when I first played last night. But because I can't pick up where I left off, it's annoying. Plasma barriers increase difficulty, but the lack of a level selector or anything ruins the game.

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Antony: Oh, I'm sorry, I thought we checked realism at the door when we teleported out of the levels.

Lack of a save feature is a definite minus, cohesiveness doesn't bother me.

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Billy Nitro Author Profile Page September 15, 2009 7:33 PM

No rage quit moments huh? How about when the controls don't respond because you go outside the game window? Or when you have to react quickly in midair (midspace?) and the line doesn't extend to the length of jump you wanted? These controls are flawed, to say the least.

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That was great fun! I liked how the health was high enough that didn't have to get every jump pixel perfect. And you could often sacrifice some health to jet right past tricky sections of the level. Overall, a fun risk/reward mechanic.

To the guy who wants to know how it ended:

You get lasered into oblivion by the computer that sent the SOS message, and then it laughs at you. What a downer!

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Thanks for explaining the ending. That is kinda lame. I was expecting something poignant.

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About the end:

the pink laser obliterated me too, but I was wondering if there is actually a way to land on the platform in some way...

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Hi folks! Pat Kemp here, creator of Station 38. I'd just like to let you know that I've recently revamped the game some based on your comments. There's now saved progress, a level selector, some difficulty progression tweaks, and the possibility of a less depressing ending!

Thanks for playing!

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love the game, just can't master lvl 37, oasis. is it even possible? dying to see the alt ending, but this one lvl is standing in my way >.

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ok, just finished the game with the alternative ending. very awesome. well deserved and i think everyone should play through for it. so sorry, no spoiler here.

mad props to Pat. i wish i could make flixel games

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how do you pass level 26? i mean the ship wont even fit up or down to get out.

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Great game, Pat! Love what I'm seeing in Flixel!

Lvl 26 does work, it's a tight fit but it does. I mastered that one :)

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