The latest game from one man Swedish studio Grapefrukt Games is an odd one. Rymdkapsel, which is Swedish for space capsule and not just random nonsense, combines elements of a city building simulator and tower defense. Set in an abstract galactic abyss, the goal is to race ahead, building a massive space station while researching mysterious monoliths and fighting off the occasional wave of aliens. And while building the elaborate yet visually simple structure is quite satisfying, the constant waves of enemies can occasionally be more annoying than fun.
Building the framework of your station is as simple as touching and dragging various rooms into the open space provided. Room layouts are randomized, as selecting them spits out an assortment of random Tetris-like shapes. This forces a certain level of micromanagement while still allowing a broader freedom. Since there’s no way to plan too far ahead, the moment at hand always takes center stage. Even the most well laid strategies will have the occasional kink, guaranteeing that each encounter will at the very least be interesting.
As you progress, a red bar slowly fills, counting down the time until the next onslaught of alien invaders. Multiple resource types accumulate for building corridors, kitchens, reactors and more. Some generate in specific structures, some must be mined from floating collections of space stuff, but all are utilized the same way. The room is placed, and your little minions scurry about adding the necessary reagents. Controlling the little guys is done via the touch screen as well. Each individual worker can be assigned a specific task such as construction, defense, etc. But even with the satisfying controls, Rymdkapsel takes a little too long to ramp up.
When Rymdkapsel really get’s going, the struggle can be satisfying, but the opening 10 to 15 minutes can be a chore. Slogging through the same steps time and again can prove frustrating, especially while having to deal with constant attacks. Even when specific plans are developed, the minions at your command still move exceptionally slow from the outset. Upgrades exist to speed up the little workers, but getting these takes time. Even late in the game, waves of enemies come so quickly that building a single structure between two can be difficult before defensive maneuvers must be made. Combat becomes a chore one has no real control over.
But, at the same time, death is no big deal. While a single match can go on for over an hour, the buildup is not technically difficult, it’s simply time consuming. I just wish I was given more time to design and build. Constructing my weird abstracted space station is fun, and the touch screen controls feel great, Rymdkapsel just forces you into combat a little too often. And the frequent restarts will accentuate how few assets the game actually uses. That’s not to say the game isn’t easy on the eyes.
If Rymdkapsel is anything, it’s aesthetically pleasing. Different rooms all have designated colors, making your eventual space station a smattering of rich colors atop a swirling abyss. A simple yet dreamy soundtrack creates an ambiance perfect for the game’s otherworldly feel. Gameplay gripes aside, Rymdkapsel is beautiful and trance-inducing.
There’s a sweet spot within Rymdkapsel that can be downright entrancing. Unfortunately the all to frequent waves of aliens and somewhat minimal content holds the title back. Rymdkapsel is a unique, albeit light little game that deserves a look, but I’d be careful before buying.