Now Here's a bizarre story. Space Tripper is a top-down 2D shoot 'em up that came out of the shareware scene back in 2001. It took a cue from Defender, in that you could flip directions to face enemies coming from either side of the screen. Not a bad idea, and coupled with good looks and a high degree of challenge, it was one of the better indie games around that time. And normally that would have been the end of it.
However, after its release one or two reviewers got a bit over-excited and, perhaps lured by the cachet of retro credibility, awarded it some stupendously inflated scores, justified only very marginally by the fact that the game cost just $8 as a download. Spurred on by its overzealous critical reception, the game eventually got released on a budget' label for $9.99, becoming one of only a few games whose prices have actually risen when they went to budget. Now it's generously been dropped to a fiver. It's still a good game, but if you really want to support indie gaming, we suggest the $8 download on the website.
Download Space Tripper
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
SpaceTripper is an odd mix of state-of-the-art 21st century visuals and two-buttons-and-a-joystick 1970s arcade artifact. There are no complex rules, plots, or even much of an AI, but there's more action than you can shake a laser at in this fast-paced tribute to the old-fashioned space shoot-em-up. Veterans of the early days (and an increasingly elderly lot we are, too) will be reminded of some of those sainted titles: Space Invaders for its relentless enemy assaults, Asteroids for its fancy Newtonian maneuvering, and Defender for its left-right orientation and the different attributes exhibited by the enemies. But those old standards never had graphics like this.
SpaceTripper is somewhat abstract in the best tradition of those arcade games. You're controlling a small ship that looks like it’s attempting to escape from inside the guts of a huge ship, or maybe the inside of a planet. SpaceTripper is shareware and the demo version reviewed gives three levels and each presents a level deck with different layout characteristics. The first is flat and simple. The second presents two landing-type areas on different levels connected by a slope. The third…well, we don’t want to give everything away.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
It is a simple game, really, and not all that hard to master, control-wise. Your ship only faces to the left or right. And one of your control buttons flips the facing. The control stick (in my case, a joystick) does two jobs, with a push forward or pull back you move up or down (left or right, or port and starboard, relative to your facing) and moving the stick left or right provides thrust in the direction you're facing. So it is possible to fly backwards, although care must be taken, since your weapons only aim to the front. By the same token, this allows for fade away shots, to clean up behind you a bit while heading down the other end.
The only other significant control switches between weapons. There are only two types available -- a blue laser that points straight out from your nose and a red "spread" of three streams, one pointing straight and the other two aiming off left and right at 45-degree angles.
All of the controls are programmable in the Game Options screen and it is recommended that this be examined. As the action mounts, you'll realize that your off-hand could be put to good use switching facing and weapons, so you might consider configuring buttons you have on your joystick base to do these tasks. On the test machine's Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro, the 7 button became the Flip Direction control and the 6 button became Change Weapon. And while you're at it you can program a button to allow you to pause the game, since no button has that assigned as default.
Each level has challenges of mounting difficulty. As with most games in this tradition, there are patterns. It would not be much challenge otherwise. A good game will exhibit randomness anchored in some internal, game-related logic (You can't say realism when you’re talking about computer games. Come to think of it, when can you say realism?) or, as in the best arcade games, unabashed patterns. The secret is to make the patterns an interesting learning challenge rather than a rats-in-a-maze memorization exercise. SpaceTripper manages this. After a few plays a light bulb will appear over your head (you'll be too busy too notice) and you'll relate some knowledge gained at a later level to something you must do earlier.
Nonetheless, if the patterns are impossible to overcome or, on the other hand, overly simple-minded, then the challenge is gone and random would be preferred. In a game with challenging patterns (like this one) you feel like you've been pitted against the manipulations of a devious genius -- as most game programmers likely think of themselves. Anyone can throw a random routine in a game, but when you've overcome the challenges laid out by another human, victory is satisfying.
The enemies in SpaceTripper exhibit a wide variety of behaviors -- some are stationary gun towers, others move and spin quite rapidly, some evolve into more dangerous forms, and some are easier to kill than others. Just about all will fire fairly easily dodged projectiles at you. But when the screen is crowded with hostiles, they can trip you up as easily as anything else.
The enemies sometime drop a "power-up" pod that can juice up your cannons. Picking those up is crucial to moving farther into the game. The power-up will increase the lethality of whichever weapon (blue or red) is active when it's picked up, so it's possible to kill the ship that drops it in one color, then switch to the other color if you want the juice to go to that weapon.
The bosses are fiendishly well thought-out and in level three, well, let's just say we wouldn’t be giving too much away if we told you that the subtitle of the level is "Arachnophobia!"
The visuals in SpaceTripper are well executed in DirectX and switch automatically to 640x480 resolution. For the most part the action is smooth scrolling but, as with anything on the PC platform and through no apparent fault of the game designers, even a fairly fast machine (it was reviewed on a PIII 550) sometimes gets into stuttering, as they will when Windows takes some resources and refuses to give back. ReBoot. Not a big deal since there are no saved games. The backgrounds scroll nicely for a 3D effect and the large enemies are artfully rendered and animated.
Sounds in SpaceTripper are simple and appropriate, with zaps and good audio cues meshed into the problem solving of the game. Certain menacing enemies have distinctive sounds that you'll find yourself listening for.
Windows 95/98/2000, Pentium III 400, 64 MB RAM, 25 MB disk space, Fast Open GL Accelerated video card, Standard Plug-N-Play soundcard (optional), Joystick (optional), and DirectX7 or later.
SpaceTripper takes graphics common to modern games and gameplay ideas inspired by the classic coin-op video games and creates a welcome entry into the PC arcade game genre.
Worthy of a look. SpaceTripper even intrigued one of the younger set around here who actually hadn't been exposed to a nearly total abstract game where there is no character (licensed or otherwise). And since there's no depicted anti-social violence, SpaceTripper is appropriate for exposure to children. Maybe game makers will take a cue and add more entries like it.