It’s not rocket science is it?
Actually it is, Kepler wrote the equations to open up rocket building 400 years ago, and this cute indie title – SimpleRockets uses those equations to model extremely realistic orbital physics as you build your own rocket to launch with and explore space!
Created by a relatively new developer, Jundroo LLC, SimpleRockets is a £10-and-under title that purposefully positions itself as an introduction to Kerbal Space Program – https://www.kerbalspaceprogram.com/, primarily by taking the idea of specific challenges from Besieged and applying it to designing rockets.
Challenges Provide Direction
For those who want to use the game as intended by the developer, working through the 18 varied challenges will be what fills the majority of time spent playing SimpleRockets.
The challenges are sometimes highly focused, and are set in such a way as to force the player into becoming familiar with the use, features and limitations of the components on offer. Some tasks will revolve around achieving a simple objective with a highly specialised design, while others will charge the player with creating a more realistic rocket that needs to be fully capable of achieving multiple goals.
For instance, there’s one very fun challenge early on where the aim is to reach a speed within a very short distance. Obviously succeeding here requires a lot of thrust, a tiny amount of fuel and as little weight as possible – so it would be no use designing a rocket capable of separating in three stages and docking with a space station. Conversely, there’s a challenge that requires the design of a craft capable of leaving the Earth (or Smearth, as it’s called in game) and landing on the moon.
Designing and Building are the Biggest Parts of the Game
As is common with the building and sandbox genres – https://www.buildinggame.net, it is likely that people playing SimpleRockets will comfortably spend most of their time in the building screen, which is a very functional but smartphone-esque interface. There are many large buttons and it uses a modular design with little in the way of advanced controls or restrictions (perhaps hinting that the game was ported to PC from Android, rather than vice versa).
Similar to Besieged – http://www.besiege.spiderlinggames.co.uk/, it became apparent that for most of the challenges, building and creating a rocket was the most enjoyable aspect of the game. The actual flying (again, an interface that has been entirely created for small touch devices) is comparatively disappointing and lacklustre, save for the tense takeoff and landing periods.
Steering and thrust can be controlled either through the large interface or with the keyboard, but there’s nothing more complicated than faster/slower and left/right. There is a map view that will help guide the player to a stable orbit, but that’s about it.
Perhaps the addition of individual rocket control and finer controls not tied to starting a new stage of deployment (where multiple actions can be grouped into a single button press, but cannot be reverted) would have added a little more depth and just something extra to do during the flight.
By the developer’s admission, SimpleRockets is not meant to compete toe-to-toe with KSP – but isn’t creating a game that is essentially a simplified version of another game automatically hindering its success?
The answer is yes and no. SimpleRockets is available on Android, and still allows some depth and challenge as well as a fair amount of customisation on a platform that has no chance of supporting the resource-hungry KSP.
KSP has another problem, too – it takes a lot of time to understand how to actually build a rocket capable of taking off. It’s a massively complex game that works with three planes (x, y and z) rather than the two (x and y) found in SimpleRockets. Here, SimpleRockets has an advantage in that it’s an order of magnitude easier to simply pick up and play, meaning that for young children and people who want a crack at building rockets without investing a ton of time, SimpleRockets is the better choice – or at least it’s the better place to start.
Replayability is SimpleRockets biggest failing. Once the challenges have been achieved, there’s little else to do, and it’s likely that after that point that a lot of people will close the game and never go back to it.
It is a sub €10, so expecting enough content to keep someone playing for hundreds of hours is unrealistic, but SimpleRockets barely has enough content for six hours of gameplay (I finished the challenges in a little over five), which puts it under the one hour per euro level; my personal minimum expectation.
As a game that was created with the objective of being something that people who don’t have the time, the platform or the knowledge to get to grips with KSP can pick up and enjoy immediately, SimpleRockets – https://www.simplerockets.com/ which now has a second edition does its job. However, a lack of replay ability and content make it a questionable purchase.