Space is Key by ChrisJeff Games is a shining example of how effective keeping it simple can be. The 99-cent app, originally an online flash game, puts you in control of a sideways scrolling square; all you have to do is tap the screen to make it jump. Other squares and rectangles get in your way. If you hit them, you start the level again. Levels are only one screen long, so dying isn’t much of a problem, as you pretty much restart where you left off. Dying too much is what matters. Your objective is to complete all 43 levels whilst dying as few times as possible. That might sound easy, but the first time that I completed the game it took more than 20 minutes and I had died over 1000 times. This is a game for people who like a challenge.
As you speed through levels the computer spiritedly commentates on the action via background text. If you’re stuck on a level it’s always on hand to tell you “this is easy on purpose”. Achievements also motivate you through the levels – there are 25 in total, and they provide great incentive to replay the game. After first finishing the game I thought I’d have no reason to play it again, but have ended up doing just that five or six times already. The giddy heights of the game’s leaderboards also lurk menacingly in the distance, challenging you to reach their peak.
Just as Space is Key’s core mechanic is beautifully simple, so are the game’s graphics. Each level is just two colours, with each different colour combination as striking as the last. If you die the square bursts into tiny particles that thin out into the air. I love the look of this game. The music is similarly brilliant, and suits the gameplay perfectly, urging you on with its retro flavoured dance rhythm and insistently repeating treble notes.
So, the simple gameplay mechanic, one-touch controls, two-colour graphics and heart-catalysing audio are all superb. That doesn’t mean that the game is perfect, namely because there isn’t enough of it. You can complete the levels in around 5-20 minutes, and from then on in the only thing to do is replay them. Although this is very enjoyable, it’d be more fun if the core mechanic were expanded on more through more levels or different modes (having an endless mode or similar would be ideal). For those that have played the flash game, none of the content on offer here is new. This is really the only problem that I have with the game – it’s just quite a big one.
Overall, Space is Key is perfect while it lasts. Although it has replay value, it would be good if there were more to replay, and the core mechanic could be expanded upon more. The game might be too frustrating for some people, but for those that like a challenge, I can wholeheartedly recommend it – just watch out for level 28, and good luck beating my best score of 121 deaths.
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