Developer: Red Cabin Games
Release Date: August 20, 2021
If I stopped buying new games right now, I could probably spend the rest of my life playing games and still have new-to-me experiences I haven’t tapped into yet when I’m on my deathbed. Yet, I still have nearly 300 titles on my Steam wish list, I cannot resist an incredible deal on a bundle, and at least twice a year, I pick up something that’s deeply discounted that I’d never even heard of before. During the most recent Steam Summer Sale, I decided to buy Space Scavenger for no other reason than it was deeply discounted and it looked neat.
I probably would have gone at least months, possibly years, without so much as installing it, but the first game I originally planned to play for #JustOnePercent during August was not actually a qualifying game – I somehow managed to misread the release date, and it actually came out in 2020. So I started poking to see what I should replace it with, and I noticed that Space Scavenger was already in my library, and it fit pretty perfectly into the hole I had just poked into my schedule.
So far, I have only played in normal mode – you have to actually finish a run in normal to open the higher difficulty, and I am nowhere near finishing a run. You start out with a very basic spaceship and two tasks per map. First, you need to scan all of the available planets. Then, you must kill all enemies on the map in order to open up a wormhole which allows you to open the next stage. A successful run on normal requires you to complete four levels, each with multiple maps, and the occasional rest stop at a repair depot and shop.
The gimmick here is to constantly build and rebuild your spaceship with the spare parts you find in your explorations. Different parts give different buffs, and you need to be mindful of where on your ship you attach these parts to get the results you want. You get a very basic laser with your very basic ship, but you can also find a bunch of different weapon types. Unfortunately, no matter how much firepower you load yourself up with, you can only ever have two active at once (corresponding with the two mouse buttons if you’re using mouse & keyboard, or the trigger buttons on controller by default).
When you are in the ship building interface, everything around you is paused while you tinker. I’d been concerned that you would have to do your ship tinkering in real time, and I was relieved to discover this wasn’t the case.
The whole concept manages to be super straightforward and incredibly finicky at the same time. Every bit of modification you do to your ship changes the way it handles – sometimes in pretty big ways. Some weapons run on ammunition, becoming useless if you run out. Others run on energy, requiring some time to recharge. You can swap which weapons are active on the fly, but if you’re not constantly aware of your limitations, you may find yourself in over your head.
Maps marked with a planet with a little flag on it will allow you to repair your ship (provided you have adequate crystals or are willing to recycle some parts to get them), and will offer a small selection of modules for sale. As you explore the other maps, you will occasionally see planets with blue crystals sticking out of them, and you’ll want to gather those up when you spot them. On some maps there will also be wrecked ships, which you can destroy to nab some scrap (which heals your ship) or an extra module or two.
Modules you don’t want can be recycled into crystals. You also get two cargo spaces where you can hold onto modules you think you might want, but might not currently have space for. During my first couple of runs, I got excited whenever a new weapon dropped. By my third run, I was crossing my fingers and hoping for more body or beam modules to increase the amount of spaceship real estate I had to work with.
After about half a dozen runs, I’m still pretty much rubbish at the game after the first set of maps. I usually hit a game over screen on the first or second map of the second level, and my runs are usually ending in 15 minutes or less, making this a great coffee break game – at least as long as I don’t manage to get good at it.
For someone who enjoys the randomness of roguelites with some shoot’em up style action combat, I could see Space Scavenger providing nearly endless replayability, with an unlockable hard mode and daily challenges.
SteamDB estimates that Space Scavenger has sold between 4,200 and 11,600 copies on Steam. It’s only gotten a handful of negative reviews, with most players are satisfied with how much game they’re getting for the price point. It is ranked 1382 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.