Space Grunts ($1.99) by Pascal Bestebroer is a fast-paced roguelike that mixes both arcade action with turn-based gameplay. If you enjoyed games like I Wanna Be A Hero and The Nightmare Cooperative, then you should give Space Grunts a try.
Over the years, I’ve grown a huge heart for those challenging little roguelike games that have become so popular nowadays. Even though most of them are difficult as hell, I still love them because it’s always a learning process for me, and I like a good challenge. Plus, it’s fun to see what kind of stuff you can get on each run and how much better you can do. I’ve been a fan of Orangepixel’s games before, including hits like Groundskepper 2 and Heroes of Loot, so naturally, I had to check out Space Grunts when I heard about it several months ago.
Following in traditional Orangepixel style, Space Grunts goes with an awesome, retro 16-bit pixel art graphical style that is a treat for the eyes. If you grew up with the classic game systems back then, such as the SNES and SEGA Genesis, then you will feel right at home. Despite the pixelated aesthetic, I found the game to be full of finer details and textures that easily indicate whether or not you’re in immediate danger. The character sprites are rather bouncy and full of personality, and the animations are smooth and fluid. The atmospheric soundtrack pulls you into the game world, and the chiptune sound effects are a nice dash of nostalgia.
The controls in Space Grunts are simple and straightforward. In the bottom left is a virtual D-pad for moving your character up, down, left, and right. On the right side of the screen, there is a button for attacking with the currently selected weapon, which you can see in the top left corner. There are three weapons that you start with: rifle, frag, and plasma. Each of them has their own unique range, which is indicated by the red outlines that show up in front of your character as you move. If you want to switch weapons, just tap on the button that is above the attack button. In the bottom center, there is a map button that allows you to see the level you’re on and all of the rooms that you’ve visited so far. This is good to see where you’ve been and where you need to go if you’re stuck. When you find items, they go into your inventory, which can be accessed by tapping on the backpack button on the left side. Every time you move, it counts as a turn, and the enemies are able to move after you do.
While the default positioning should work for most people, the game does have customization options in the settings. You can rearrange the position of each button through drag-and-drop gestures, and a button lets you quickly reset it back to the default positions if needed. One thing I’m a bit disappointed with is the spacing for the D-pad buttons — I felt that there is too much spacing between all four directional buttons, and sometimes it takes multiple taps from me before I’m able to move where I want to go because I am unable to tap the buttons without looking. I think it would be nice if the customization options allowed you to adjust the spacing between the D-pad buttons, so hopefully the developer considers this in a future update.
So what exactly is Space Grunts? The game’s story takes place in 2476, where Earth’s own space-federation has been building several fancy moon-bases across the galaxy. However, a distress signal has been coming from one of those bases, and the Space Grunts, a group of intergalactic “problem solvers,” are sent out to investigate the signal. In the game, you can choose from three Space Grunts (Captain, Strongarm, and TechJunky), with each of them having their own strengths and weaknesses that you can see before starting a run. The stats for each character include strength (weapon power), tech (item usage), and luck (item finding). Additionally, you’ll be able to unlock alternative versions of each Grunt, although you won’t be able to see how their stats are until you get access to them.
The goal of the game is to guide your Space Grunt to the moon-base that has been sending the distress signal in order to find out exactly what happened there. However, the task is easier said than done, because you’ll have to fight nasty aliens, robots, security drones, and get past defensive systems on the base to reach your goal. Space Grunts splits everything up into several levels (move onto the next by finding the elevator), and each level has many interconnected rooms for you to explore. While you want to use your weapons to get rid of enemies, you’ll also need to use them to break open boxes and crates for more ammo, consumable items, or even better weapons, and there are alien plants that can hurt or harm you. There are also a lot of secrets that are waiting to be uncovered, so the game has a great mix of exploration and action going on.
Since the levels are always procedurally generated, it won’t always be the same thing twice. This leads to high replay value, and there are a handful of Game Center achievements to obtain as well. Even though all my time has been sucked away into Crashlands lately, I see myself coming back to Space Grunts often just to kill some time.
Overall, Space Grunts is an entertaining and fun roguelike action arcade game. I love the retro style and aesthetic, as it reminds me a lot of my childhood. The music is rather soothing, although you’re dealing with a post-apocalyptic moon-base, and the chiptune sound effects are a nice blast from the past. Controls are easy to pick up and fairly responsive, though I would like to be able to change the spacing of the D-pad. There is a ton of variety and replay value in the game, so it’s definitely a title that will keep you busy for a while.
I highly recommend checking out Space Grunts if you’re a fan of roguelikes, action-packed arcade games, and like a challenge (you will die a lot). You can find Space Grunts on the App Store as a universal download for the iPhone and iPad for just $1.99. There are no in-app purchases.