Spacejacked is a 2D tower defence game that also borrows elements from 2D run ‘n gun platformers. Build and upgrade turrets, defend the Core against them and protect the spaceship to make it out alive. You’re the only one who can save the ship and rescue the kidnapped crew, so let’s show these aliens what we’re made of!

Gameplay

Spacejacked cleverly combines two genres to provide gameplay that is both strategic and frantic. You are required to jump from one of the three ship’s rooms to the next as waves of aliens breach your ship’s walls. With three different upgradeable turrets to choose from, each with their own strengths, recharge time and metal cost, you certainly have a lot of options and strategy options to consider.

As you’re jumping from room to room, it is crucial that you are keeping track of your metal, which is your form of currency. Spacejacked encourages you to sell your turrets back at full price so that you can then build and restrategise in rooms that require more attention.

To add to the mayhem, the platforming element has you making your way up platforms to shoot at enemies. These bullets don’t do much, but they can get you out of a pinch. Being in space, the platforming doesn’t involve jumping, rather you shift your sense of gravity to either be upright or hanging upside down. It doesn’t do too much in terms of strategy, but it’s certainly clever and adds a new dimension to the action that makes you rethink your approach.

If truth be told, I actually found it quite difficult to play this game with analogue sticks, whether that be with the Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller, and this was due to the gravity platforming. This is one of those rare moments where I loved using the directional buttons on the Joy-Cons as they were able to provide much more precision and ease of use.

If this all sounds too hectic, you can play the game on Planner Mode, which is another way of saying Easy. However what this mode specifically allows is more time between waves so that you can plan out your defences with more care and precision. This mode can also speak more to players who like a good tower defence game and not fast-paced action platformers.

When you beat a level and rescue the first of three kidnapped crew members, you get to play through a fun little mini-game that provides Metal bonuses. This mini-game takes the form of a minimalistic side-scrolling SHMUP that is wonderfully responsive and really helps to break up the repetition that the game may have suffered from. The better you do and the more that you collect, the more Metal you receive, helping you through the main crux of the game.

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Spacejacked also does an admirable job of providing replayability, with additional Endless and Challenge Modes. The Endless Mode speaks for itself and while it’s nice to have for revisiting purposes, it is simply what it is. The Challenge Modes are unlocked through the Story Mode and these provide a lot more replay variety. If anything, the added replayability is a great addition that provides a lot more depth than one would expect from a US$10 game.

From a budget title, it goes without saying that you can’t expect too much in terms of features. However, I always miss rumble and any form of tactile feedback, especially for a run ‘n gun platformer with a lot of action. It’s certainly not to say that the fun of the game is by any means diminished, but certain actions feel hollow without the tactile feedback.

World / Level Design

As previously mentioned, the frantic action is in large based around the level design and jumping from one room to the next. Each of the three rooms are different, but they never change; I initially thought that this was a negative point but as soon as I realised that the turrets you build remain where they are day-to-day unless you sell them, this puts great emphasis on making the correct decisions from the start and building a solid foundation.

In the second act, the play area is shifted as you are on a new ship. The first ship has a core on each room, however the second ship has one core in the main Headquarters, with a path that forks and leads back to the ship’s only core. The shift in layout is very well implemented, providing impressive variety.

Story / Personality

The plot began relatively straightforward and simplistic, to the point where I thought that it wouldn’t have much substance aside from rescuing three scientists; I was pleasantly wrong. Spacejacked had a few surprising twists and turns that provided motivation and curiosity.

Whilst the plot is a simple story, the game has a tongue-in-cheek nods that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I had a big smile on my face when I rescued a crew member and their little pixel sprite started dancing, or when the game presented subtle nods before every mission to the cult classic Back to the Future series with the elderly science exclaiming, “Great Scott!”. It’s the little things and they’ve complimented the setting well.

Graphics / Art Direction

The cute pixel art is charming in its simplistic manner, not overcomplicating or diminishing the gameplay; rather, the gameplay is enhanced by its visual approach, with clearly distinguishable objects, colour coordinated turrets and alien design variety that immediately allows you to tell enemies apart. The character sprite designs are adorable and they appear to take on a chibi approach to reinforce its lightheartedness.

Music / Sound Design

The soundtrack has to be the most underwhelming aspect of Spacejacked. It fits, sure, but it’s nothing to call out or mention in any meaningful way. The sound design certainly steers into the retro shooter trope of the “pew pews” and “bleep bloops”. It’s nostalgic and fitting but again, it’s nothing special.

Final Score: 80%

Spacejacked was a pleasant surprise that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. With a lot of thought having gone into the level design and the gravity based, non-jumping platforming providing a nice twist on the tower defence genre. For a US$10 indie game, there’s a lot to be excited for in Spacejacked.

Thank you for checking out our Spacejacked switch review, thank you to Ratalaika Games for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: