Amazon started building its own game studio last year. One of its first games, in partnership with Frontier Developments, is Tales From Deep Space, a sci-fi puzzle game about mistaken identities and a big conspiracy. It can be played solo or, if you’re on certain Kindle Fire tablets, or an iPhone or iPad, you can play with two players cooperatively (each person on their own device).
The game starts off a little slow, with a section that’s mostly an introductory movie with just a few tutorial moments. First you see E, a sort of interplanetary salesman, arriving at Big Moon, where there are currently some computer issues. Shortly thereafter, he comes into possession of CASI, a beat-up luggage drone that looks a bit like a ’90s-era PC tower, beige and boxy.
But once you get through the intro, things get more interesting. You control both E and CASI, switching between them as needed. You can tell the other one to follow you or stay put, which allows you to activate switches and solve other problems that require two characters.
E and CASI have different abilities, and as you progress through the game, you’ll gain additional equipment and upgrades. At the start, they’re fairly similar but E has a gun and CASI can only punch nearby things. Later, though, CASI will get some rockets that lets it reach higher platforms, while E can get upgraded blasters that can ricochet. You’ll also get access to grenades and electronic lures, which distract the red Meeks around the station so you can get past them.
One of my favorite gadgets, though, is the gravity rings. You throw them onto certain objects and it makes them float. Sometimes you use these on boxes to lift you up to a place you can’t reach otherwise. Other times you can lift grates to get to passages below. But what I like to use them for is on the red Meeks–it lifts them up in the air, so they’re confused and can’t move until it wears off.
One interesting aspect of the game is that you’ll travel around the same areas multiple times. As you gain new abilities, you’ll be able to reach new platforms or hidden areas that you missed before, and there are various “collectables” hidden around the station. Data cubes give you little bits of story, and there are also glowing orbs and big “rock fleas” that jump out at you. If you collect enough, you’ll unlock things like new costumes for E and CASI.
The story itself is kind of silly, but I enjoyed following along while I ran around solving puzzles. The station is filled with non-hostile green Meeks, and you can talk to many of them by stopping and tapping on the speech bubble. Those aren’t crucial to the story, but they’re entertaining.
Most of the puzzles are in terms of getting the right character to the right areas to reach switches–since they have different abilities, they can access and activate different things, and you’ll have to figure out how to maneuver both of them to get past doors, moving platforms, and so on. It reminds me a little bit of the old game Lost Vikings (remember that one?) where you had to figure out which Viking to use to reach various places.
The controls can be a little difficult at times. The press-and-hold to move is quite similar to the press-and-hold to use the current special ability (powerful blaster, throw grenade, gravity ring) so sometimes I end up shooting when I want to move, or vice versa. Usually it’s not too much of a problem, but there are some areas with a lot of enemies where shooting quickly and accurately is crucial.
I’ve tried out the multiplayer briefly to see how it works, but my kids were more interested in watching me play than taking control themselves. I do think it would be a lot easier, though, because you could both be moving at the same time rather than having to switch off between characters.
Disclosure: I received a free download of this app for review purposes.