In Star Trek, Kirk gives a jargon-laden command, and someone on the bridge of the Enterprise—let’s say Sulu—noodles on some control panel and the ship swerves to safety. Were you to take that scene, combine it with a healthy dose of absurdity, you’d get Spaceteam (free), a wonderfully insane and wholly unique game for iPhone.
Soak Ferrous Holospectrum
Spaceteam is a multiplayer-only game, requiring two to four players (iPhone or Android) in the same room and connected to the same Wi-Fi network. In it, players take the role of a spaceship crew members, with their own special control panel on their iPhone screens.
To save your ship from impending disaster (demonstrated by a rapidly approaching ball of fire), you must carry out the mission critical commands that appear at the top of the screen. Except you probably don’t have the appropriate control panel, so you’ll have to shout the command out loud to your crewmates and hope that one of them can execute the order. For instance, I might get the command “Wash Dishes” but you’ve got a panel labeled “Dishes” with a large “Wash” button underneath.
Some commands require all the players to participate. To successfully pass a wormhole, for instance, everyone has to flip their phones upside down. Other hazards include your panels being rendered unreadable from a broken translator, and panels becoming unscrewed and swinging freely (following the motion of your phone), to name a few.
Carry out enough commands and you’ll be whisked to the relative safety of the next sector. Fail too many times, and your tiny craft is engulfed in flames. Note that the game appears to have no defined winning condition. Your hilarious doom is assured.
Though free, Spaceteam includes several in-app purchases for new challenges and other extras. I normally abhor such things, but most of these do expand the game, and only one person need purchase them in order for everyone on a Spaceteam to enjoy. There are also free, experimental features for additional madness; like massive games of up to eight players or games where players aren’t told which team they’re playing with.
Set Lustrous Prismneck to Maximum
Spaceteam benefits from being willfully against the grain of most mobile multiplayer games. The strange multiplayer set up, for instance, is one of my favorite features. There’s no single player mode or remote multiplayer, but executing either of these would be difficult given the nature of the game. It demands silly, interpersonal interaction and the game just wouldn’t be as much without everyone in the same room. Note that when Wi-Fi is unavailable, payers can form teams over Bluetooth, but not cross-platform.
Instead of quiet, solitary gaming, the requisite in-person shouting of Spaceteam gives it a palpable sense of urgency, though long sessions can be draining (but really, you’re not going to last long). Having to say such silly things aloud and still play a devilishly difficult game makes it feel like Karaoke, where players are embarrassed into having a good time.
Increase Astral Synth to One
Don’t be fooled by Spaceteam’s stripped-down design (see the slideshow for images). It’s very well made and extremely responsive, even on my iPhone 4s. I have never (or at least, never noticed) an instance where the game lagged, dropped players, or otherwise caused me to have a bad time. I have noticed that sometimes it has difficulty detecting players before games begin, though this could be a network issue.
Also on the subject of design, the skeuomorphic controls make each level extra hard, since you’ll have to figure out how each control works as the game progresses. It’s also delightfully satisfying to spin dials and slide sliders, even if they are only virtual.
Jiggle Emergency Whittler
Game developers quickly figured out winning formulas for iOS, and even some of the best iPhone games are just clever re-hashes of familiar concepts. Spaceteam is not like that. It feels very un-cynical; like the developer was primarily concerned with making a fun game. It’s also gleefully silly, and truly, unabashedly social.
Because Spaceteam is so different, it’s going to limit when and with whom you play. But if you, and a few friends/strangers can all agree to spend a little time being silly, then Spaceteam will thrill you. Just don’t forget to set Shiftsanitizer to one, and pick up this five-star Editors’ Choice for iPhone games.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc