flatspace screen

Last month Wisp Games released a sprawling galactic role playing game set far in the future, known as Flatspace [App Store] for the iPhone and iPod touch.  An adaptation of the well-reviewed 2003 PC release, Flatspace is a large scale, open space trading game in the spirit of the legendary Elite, Galaxy on Fire [App Store] for the iPhone, and others of the sort.

The distant future. Space has expanded to such an extent that stars and planets can no longer hold form. Humanity still lives and works in space stations and ships, islands of light and technology in an otherwise cold and flat void.

Such is the backstory of the Flatspace game universe.  Upon reading the title of this game along with the backstory, I must confess that I was anticipating an amazingly clever and wholly new type of game experience that might harken back to Abbot's Flatland, or something like the same, but this is not the case.  Not that Flatspace is a let-down, but it seems the "flat" backstory is simply justification for a game of galactic proportions being rendered in top-down 2D (well, 2.5D) as opposed to 3D.  I just wanted to clear that up, directly.

flatspaceAt the start of a new game, you create a captain for your ship, choosing from among a variety of professions: Trader, Mercenary, Bounty Hunter, Space Pirate, Police Officer and Scavenger.  You're then equipped with a rather meager spacecraft and dropped into a random spot in the game universe.  From there you're out to amass wealth by way of completing various missions and trading items between space stations -- that is, if you're on the straight and narrow.  Another approach is to basically become a space pirate, raiding, stealing, and killing in order to bring in the loot.  Whatever your approach, there are plenty of other space pirates out there to keep you on your toes -- watch out for them.

Your ship has the ability to target and scan both space stations and ships.  This reveals important information about the nature of these vessels, so that you can decide whether to interact with them (and in what fashion) or to pass them by.  Your craft is armed with lasers, but available weapons upgrades, which include cannons, missiles and tractor beams, add to your abilities and are necessary to complete certain missions.  Control of your ship is handled via accelerometer for steering, as well as on-screen touch for control of weapons and various other ship features.

Flatspace for the iPhone features three different playmodes.  First off, there's the Standard Game, which lets you create a captain and begin amassing your fortune.  The Custom Game mode gives you control over the types of people in the universe (pirates, no pirates, etc.), the quantity and visibility of space stations, the numbers of asteroids and nebulas, and so forth.  The Arcade Game just throws you straight into the heat of battle, where the emphasis is on action rather than strategy.

Even with my abbreviated time with the game, it's clear that Flatspace offers significant play time to those who fancy a large-scale space RPG.  While more approachable than the seminal classic Elite, Flatspace is one of those games in which you can (and must) invest a lot of time.

The accelerometer-only steering can seem imprecise and the interface, a bit unpolished, perhaps reflective of it being a port of a PC game, but Wisp Games indicates that the first update is almost ready, which will include the option of non-accelerometer steering, video tutorials, and the ability to choose your initial bankroll for Custom Games.  And those who remain undecided can check out the free, demo version of the Windows release to get a feel for the action.

App Store Link: Flatspace, $2.99

TouchArcade Rating

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  • acidbottle

    thanks for hilighting this one, it looks pretty interesting.

    anyone have any other impressions? an action orientated 2.5d space explorer would do me just fine.

    • rich_952000

      acid, what more impression could you need than Mr. Patterson's? ;)

  • acidbottle

    thanks for hilighting this one, it looks pretty interesting.

    anyone have any other impressions? an action orientated 2.5d space explorer would do me just fine.

    • rich_952000

      acid, what more impression could you need than Mr. Patterson's? ;)

  • Farnsworthiness

    Lol - my security word was IKEA.

    Anyway, I've bought it and played it. I particularly like it, though I will say that it is more than a little ruthless to you when you start off. If you are not careful, you can jump from one system to the other and get attacked by pirates. There is no bargaining with the pirates - just run or slug it out with them. Rule of thumb: If you get scanned by someone, run like hell. Jump to another system as fast as you can or you will die.

    I also had problems with trying to be a trader. Usually you want to set up a trading network between adjoining star systems. The problem that I've seen is that when the cost of a particular good declines in one system, it will decline in the others. It was difficult for me to build up a healthy margin with trading. I made much more money as a taxi, believe it or not.

    All in all, its fun - just be on your toes. ;)

  • Farnsworthiness

    Lol - my security word was IKEA.

    Anyway, I've bought it and played it. I particularly like it, though I will say that it is more than a little ruthless to you when you start off. If you are not careful, you can jump from one system to the other and get attacked by pirates. There is no bargaining with the pirates - just run or slug it out with them. Rule of thumb: If you get scanned by someone, run like hell. Jump to another system as fast as you can or you will die.

    I also had problems with trying to be a trader. Usually you want to set up a trading network between adjoining star systems. The problem that I've seen is that when the cost of a particular good declines in one system, it will decline in the others. It was difficult for me to build up a healthy margin with trading. I made much more money as a taxi, believe it or not.

    All in all, its fun - just be on your toes. ;)

  • Love

    That interface looks horrible. Green boxes are so sexy. Please make some kind of virtual analog controls for this instead. Also, the video only shows action. What happens if we land om a planet, take a job or whatever?

    • spiffyone

      Yes, the interface does look ugly, but, honestly now:

      ENOUGH with the cries for virtual analogs or dpads!

      There are BETTER, more ELEGANT interfaces out there.

      Look at games like Aerolite, Orion's Belt, The Void and particularly Blue Attack! for examples of games that do quite well without virtual analog onscreen controls. Aerolite uses two turn buttons and onscreen buttons. Not too elegant, but good. Orion's Belt uses accelerate and decelerate buttons and a turn wheel (ala iDracula), The Void uses motion sensing for turns, accelerate/decelerate buttons as well as a fire button. Blue Attack, best of all, uses the accelerometer to move, control speed, etc. All are far better than just slapping a virtual onscreen analog stick, which is not guaranteed to even work well, and calling it a day.

      • acidbottle

        not sure where the green interface comes from. i picked this up and each of the upgrades affects the style of interface you have. i presume its a different ship or game mode giving those boxes. my current one has no green at all, in fact its well thought out.

        all in all this game is epic! bit nasty to begin with but soon into tha groove

  • Love

    That interface looks horrible. Green boxes are so sexy. Please make some kind of virtual analog controls for this instead. Also, the video only shows action. What happens if we land om a planet, take a job or whatever?

    • spiffyone

      Yes, the interface does look ugly, but, honestly now:

      ENOUGH with the cries for virtual analogs or dpads!

      There are BETTER, more ELEGANT interfaces out there.

      Look at games like Aerolite, Orion's Belt, The Void and particularly Blue Attack! for examples of games that do quite well without virtual analog onscreen controls. Aerolite uses two turn buttons and onscreen buttons. Not too elegant, but good. Orion's Belt uses accelerate and decelerate buttons and a turn wheel (ala iDracula), The Void uses motion sensing for turns, accelerate/decelerate buttons as well as a fire button. Blue Attack, best of all, uses the accelerometer to move, control speed, etc. All are far better than just slapping a virtual onscreen analog stick, which is not guaranteed to even work well, and calling it a day.

      • acidbottle

        not sure where the green interface comes from. i picked this up and each of the upgrades affects the style of interface you have. i presume its a different ship or game mode giving those boxes. my current one has no green at all, in fact its well thought out.

        all in all this game is epic! bit nasty to begin with but soon into tha groove

  • ConraDargo

    Nice! I've played this a lot on my PC and it's a really fun game :DD More like this on App Store please! <3

  • ConraDargo

    Nice! I've played this a lot on my PC and it's a really fun game :DD More like this on App Store please! <3

  • Love

    I think motion sensor controls are great for driving simulations, but there are other far better methods for top down shooters. Orion's belt has a good scheme so yes, go for that one. Dual sticks can be wrong if it's not implemented correctly.

    What acidbottle wrote sounds interesting. Didn't know that.

    But I think I wait for warp gate.

  • Love

    I think motion sensor controls are great for driving simulations, but there are other far better methods for top down shooters. Orion\'s belt has a good scheme so yes, go for that one. Dual sticks can be wrong if it\'s not implemented correctly.

    What acidbottle wrote sounds interesting. Didn\'t know that.

    But I think I wait for warp gate.

  • http://www.monicadickey.com Monica Dickey

    Looks kind of cool but I think I'll pass. I would prefer a simpler interface than a motion based thing, it looks like a long game and I can't stand tilting the phone around for long.

    • acidbottle

      the tilt controls were not as bad i expected :)

      you gently tilt left or right to rotate your ship direction and thats it. i think it works quite well and im usually the first person to bash tilt only games.

  • http://www.monicadickey.com Monica Dickey

    Looks kind of cool but I think I'll pass. I would prefer a simpler interface than a motion based thing, it looks like a long game and I can't stand tilting the phone around for long.

    • acidbottle

      the tilt controls were not as bad i expected :)

      you gently tilt left or right to rotate your ship direction and thats it. i think it works quite well and im usually the first person to bash tilt only games.