Developer: Nonsuch Games
Huespace makes no bones about the fact that it's a retro shoot 'em up. Its pixelated faux-3D visuals evoke the most basic classics of yesteryear, so much so that you'll frequently hallucinate holding a Colecovision controller or Atari 2600 joystick rather than skittering your fingers over the keyboard. There's definitely room in the marketplace for nostalgic shooters like this, but has Nonsuch Games provided enough meat, innovation and addictive draw to make Huespace worth its meagre asking price?
Players control a merrily-wobbling flying saucer as it careens along a scrolling plane. Asteroids, aliens and powerups emerge from the horizon and hurtle towards you, requiring skilful reflexes to dodge and weave through their onslaught. Though your ship is equipped with a laser cannon and bombs, the ammo supply is extremely limited; forcing you to conserve every bullet and concentrating on evasion rather than engagement. Movement speed is brisk and responsive enough (conforming to the WASD standard), though the grainy visuals and the slanted perspective frequently make it difficult to work out exactly where each sprite's hitbox actually begins.
Bizarrely, shooting and bomb controls have been mapped to the numpad, meaning that laptop owners will need to switch to the alternate control scheme by hitting the Ctrl key as soon as possible. I feel the instructions ought to have made this clearer from the off.
Enormous bosses stand at the end of each stage, and they provide by far the most enjoyable part of the package. Everything from their varied attack patterns to their unique character designs feels appropriately menacing and solid; challenging you to learn their abilities by rote and eventually rewarding you with the sweet satisfaction of taking them down. Huespace is certainly a difficult game, yet one that shooter fans will find extremely compelling.
If this was the alpha and omega of Huespace, it simply would not have been enough. The bleepy chiptune soundtrack and the stark visuals are undeniably charming, sure, but we would have labelled its gameplay as horrendously basic and repetitive many years ago. Besides, we live in an age where digital distribution platforms teem with capable SHMUPS that provide more flair and panache - not to mention Flash portals. Luckily there's a bit more to Huespace than that. The eighteen stages can be replayed at leisure via an expanding star map, which provides you with extra ammo for the tougher levels. You're able upgrade your saucer by defeating bosses, which gradually evolves into a much more powerful starship that packs a significant punch. A minigame, art gallery, cheats and other unlockables can be also gained throughout the campaign, adding a much-needed reason to keep playing beyond the old-school challenge. There's a deceptive amount of content to be found here, so long as you're willing to look for it.
Despite all that, Huespace is still an incredibly bare-bones proposition. It's retro, pure and simple: a game designed to emulate the hard and nasty games we were used to rather than a new lease of life. The graphics, art style and hardcore action will thrill and delight retronauts who approach it with an open mind, sadly, most gamers will probably tire of the experience after a few frustrating minutes.
Personally? I love it. But be aware that it's a throwback rather than an homage.
- Capable action
- Deceptively good value
- Graphics and soundtrack will delight fans of retro games
- Basic, bare-bones gameplay with little in the way of innovation
- Frequently frustrating
- Visuals look awful in fullscreen mode
The Short Version: Huespace is the very definition of a niche title, and as such our overall score can't really do it justice. If you're in search of tough nostalgic thrills, your three quid will provide you what could handily pass for one of the best games of 1984. Whether that's a good thing or a shocking dealbreaker is entirely down to you.