Like many gamers, my three best friends and I have a long-standing gaming tradition. Every holiday, we gather for our perennial New Year's Eve LAN party. In an ideal world, we tear down our gaming rigs on New Year's Eve, drop them off at one friend's house with plenty of space, go to dinner at our favorite Tex-Mex place, and then ring in the New Year over a good 8 to 10 hours of gaming nirvana fueled by salty snacks and sugary drinks.

The reality usually played out differently. After several years of frustration caused by out-of-date drivers, lost game discs, forgotten Steam passwords, and bizarre network anomalies (what exactly is a network bridge, and why did it only appear on my Win98 machine?), we threw up our hands and downsized to Nintendo DSes and Mario Kart. This past weekend, the gang got together ahead of schedule and downsized even further.

Armed with our iPhones, we listened to the ranting of one friend who insisted we play some iOS game called Spaceteam [Free]. In preparation for the meet-up, I downloaded the game and perused the list of features. They included teamwork, shouting, confusion, and four-stroke pluckers. Being a big fan of three-stroke pluckers, I could only imagine what fun it would be to tinker with four. I was not disappointed.

The first thing you should know about Spaceteam is that it only supports local co-op play. Unless you've got a few friends handy, the app just sits there, as out of reach as a four-stroke plucker. The reason for co-op-only play became obvious as we entered our first game. Each player receives a control panel littered with dials, buttons, and sliders. An instruction appears on your screen, telling you to use a certain control. Maybe you have that control, but maybe you don't.

If not, you'll need to shout out the instruction--set some dial to 5, enable or disable some switch, and so on--and hope the friend who does have that control can take action before time runs out. All the while, your friends are also receiving and yelling instructions while working frantically to complete instructions you and others are jabbering on about. Survive one sector and you progress to the next, receiving a new randomized control panel just when you were starting to feel comfortable with the last one.

A few sectors in and the action turns fast and furious, turning Spaceteam sessions into rollicking bouts of shouting, laughter, and frantic screen mashing. Some of the controls have real names, but most are pure made-up techno jargon; you'll have as much fun shouting out "Flush the four-stroke plucker!" as you will actually flushing the thing. Many sectors also throw anomalies at you, such as replacing text with symbols--"Enable the thing that looks like a directional pad!"--and warp holes that make your screen undulate like a belly dancer.

Panels pop off, sludge oozes over your controls, and electrical shorts render some panels unusable. You can wipe away the goop and slide panels back into place, forcing you to juggle making repairs, twisting your phone upside down to escape a warp hole, completing instructions, and belting out orders. It's a riot and an absolute blast, as our forum readers can attest.

After suffering abject defeat a handful or so of times, we attempted to devise a system of communication to maintain order and complete instructions more efficiently. Rap the table if we had a particular control so the party knew to direct repeated commands at that player, say "I second that" when two or more players received the same instruction, say instructions in a clockwise pattern around the table to avoid talking over each other, drop unnecessary words such as "set" in "set shiftsanitizer to 1." Some strategies worked early on, but by sector 5, we were all receiving so many instructions that we could almost feel the game compelling us to break away from our strategies and return to yelling and grunting.

And that's as it should be. Your ship will inevitably break apart, and you'll have just as much fun recalling the more amusing commands--"make sandwiches" and "eulogize former team" were our favorites--before diving right back in for another round of shouting. Go ahead and give it a try. Spaceteam is fun, free, and guaranteed to be a hit at your next get-together.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • thesidewaystable

    This game is awesome

  • Ploulack

    A must have

  • Sithinious

    Sounds like a mobile version of Artemis.

    • blindspot

      Well, there is a mobile version of Artemis called "Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator".

      Spaceteam is way lighter fare. In a good way.

    • timothyalvin

      Sort of. Whereas Artemis simulates piloting the USS Enterprise, Spaceteam simulates piloting the TARDIS.

  • wildperson

    This looks hilarious. Guess I should go make some friends.

  • Benste

    I've had this game for so long. It's so much fun! I played it with my friends all day today. It makes you sound very nerdy, but it's very entertaining.

  • garret44

    Every holiday you celebrate New Year's Eve? That must get old

    • http://www.facebook.com/dlcraddock David Craddock

      The booze flows freely, my friend.

      • garret44

        Haha

    • http://www.k3vin.net t3rminus

      "holiday" as in "holiday season", or "the holidays", meaning the time around Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, and all the other festive (or solemn) gatherings I haven't mentioned that take place during late December/early January.

      Not holiday as in "periodic, government-sanctioned break from work".

  • http://twitter.com/Slow_Shoes Luis Martinez

    Has anyone else found that it's better to play over Bluetooth than wi-fi. I seemed to drop games quite a bit with wi-fi.

  • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

    This sounds great if you have friends :(

    • Kintaro Oe

      I'm forever alone too, but I try to play it on all my devices simultaniously

      • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

        That...that is so sad...

  • nini

    Today I found there's such thing as a four-stroke plucker. I didn't learn a definition though so it just sounds dirty.

  • somethingelsefl

    This game is honestly the most group fun I've had an iOS ever. I'm strongly considering the app upgrades just to support this developer.

  • toxiccheese

    We have a blast playing this at the office!

  • Words of Ivory

    See, *this* is the sort of thing mobile gaming can do that sets it out from the crowd.

    As opposed to the countless hoard of mind numbingly tedious currency grinding borefests with "optional" IAPs that seem to make up 99% of the current market.

  • the fish

    I played this with my co workers during our break once. Three people - lot of fun and noise. Have to bring it up again :)

  • Blackharon

    I love this game, quite honestly the best group fun I've had in iOS. It's a shame it doesn't get played more than once in a while

  • Maniacfive

    Wish this app wouldn't automatically censor any comment with a link. The penny arcade cartoon about spaceteam IS worth a read.

    Anyway, sans link, great game, lots of fun. One of the few games my other half suggests we play rather than the other way around.

  • Electric Salmon

    I downloaded this game a couple of months ago and will never delete it. I also purchased a little custom pilot. I figured I would toss the dev a buck for the awesome experience. I feel like a TA plays is warranted.

  • http://twitter.com/dezign999 François

    This game should come with a keg of tasty brew.

  • ianlogsdon

    Easily my top pick for a party game, it surpassed play and pass risk as the old standby.

  • BaltimoreDave

    space team is awesome.... yea! (listen to the credits song)

  • JCat_NY

    Thumbs up for this article, as I've never heard of SpaceTeam. On it!

  • Nycteris

    This game is hilarious with a bunch of people. Highly recommended!

  • mabhatter

    This NEEDS a Doctor Who version!

  • anabolicMike

    I don't have enough friends sadly. Ill never get to try it!

  • echo_pdx

    I adore this game. Best with four but still fun with two! Everyone should try this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/camilo.pineda.906 Camilo Pineda

    I played it with two Portuguese friends and it got crazy fast! Love this game

  • FuZion

    Finally got my lady & her friend to give this a shot with me & it was pure brilliant.

    Something very different to the norm & very entertaining.

  • ezk99

    I wanna have friends!

Spaceteam Reviewed by David Craddock on . Rating: 5