More Frustrating Than Fun
By Alex Orona
Games with wacky controls and physics are a budding genre in gaming today. Starting from the early days of QWOP to Octo-Dad, we’ve seen large variations on this formula. Newly out of 2pt Interactive we have Heavenly Bodies, an astronautical physics adventure about maintaining a satellite in orbit. It’s a beautiful and isolating game that has a great idea but is ultimately tougher than it needs to be.
Heavenly body starts with some pretty simple controls. Left stick is your left arm, right stick is your right arm. Triggers control your grip and bumpers pull in your feet. Using these controls, you are to navigate the zero g environment of your space station, mining ship and even the vastness of space. The missions are really diverse such as using wrenches to repair outside solar panels or moving cargo, all set within a gravity-less confined station.
With the environment being the space station, you’re confined to the recesses of tight winding corridors or the polar opposite with just a void of endless space. This gives the exact juxtaposition you’d expect with either being claustrophobic or lost to nothingness. With that being the design philosophy, it’s actively difficult to get comfortable within the gameplay. There’s always a barrier when inside the station or on the verge of getting sucked into space, but while the audio design feels relaxed, it rarely was.
Along with that, the controls, while wacky, felt very rough when paired with realistic zero gravity physics. Your main source of movement was using your arms to swim, and that felt like moving through molasses. Grabbing the walls and pulling was inaccurate and clumsy which is both the point and it’s greatest weakness. If the mechanics had been exaggerated to another couple degrees, we’d have a lot more fundamental fun. Sure, realism is interesting but in this case, it’s at the expense of enjoyment.
The missions are enjoyable and allow for some very unique scenarios that remain fresh but with the way the game is built, they become frustrating chores instead of dynamic events. The environment would feel less confining if movement didn’t feel so stilted. There’s absolutely a great premise here with Heavenly Bodies. The soundtrack and art design are enjoyable being simple, clean and ultimately chill. The actual gameplay on the other hand is something different. Unfortunately 2pt Interactive spent more time creating a realistic zero G simulator and less time on making a fun game.