2D Space Fighters hold a special place in my heart. Few games gave me as good a time as Space Pirates And Zombies did so long ago. So, when I peered at Captain Forever Remix, a part of me hoped for an experience similar to it. However, I quickly learned that there were several key differences between the games.
Starting off, Captain Forever Remix is a roguelike (or roguelite if you prefer) that takes place in a less futuristic setting than you’d think. In fact, it occurs in the imagination of a brother and sister, roleplaying a villain and hero respectively. The evil King Kevin has frozen the sun and runs amok in the planetary system, even going as far as to threaten you with ruining the galaxy! You play as his sister, donning the mantle of Captain Forever, coming to the rescue. But before you can kick your little brothers’ butt, you’ll have to get passed Kevin’s Krusaders [sic], an army of mutated pets that pilot the various spaceships.
Your heroic vessel? A measly square called a command block that fires a meek laser projectile. This is where the meat of the gameplay comes in. When you start out, you are given a variety of parts that you can attach to your ship as you see fit. Ranging from thrusters, weaponry such as lasers and rockets, to simple blocks that give you room to place them. Because in a game with only two dimensions, you can rest assure you’ll be needing that room to attach your impressive weaponry to.
This feature shines once you go out and chase after your brother. Every stage you are required to defeat one minion of a base level (starting with level 2). Once defeated, you are allowed to move on to the next stage and the required level that you need to overcome will be raised by one. You defeat enemies by destroying their command block and are rewarded with an achievement if you manage to destroy them enough times without blowing up their parts. This is vital, as the parts will detach if the enemy is beaten or a supporting block is detached from it. Subsequently, you can use your mouse to drag these pieces to your ship and attach them, be it during or after a battle.
It sounds great in concept. Natural selection, the law of the strongest! Strengthen yourself with the remains of your enemies! However, it starts falling apart in practice once you realize that, not only do parts of your ship break apart quickly but building your ship nonsymmetrically means your thrusters will cause you to fly awkwardly. It’s impressive in its own way, as your movement is not only determined by the number of thrusters on each side of your ship, but it also takes their specific positioning into account.
However, as mentioned, parts break pretty fast. In addition, attaching a part to another means that it’s only held together by that specific “contact.” Meaning, even if there are solid blocks edging with it, they’ll do nothing to keep it together unless they were the actual block used to attach it originally. You will see many situations where your parts go flying after a vital connection gets broken, and then your complex build falls apart pretty quickly. This causes your designs to be more limited than you’d prefer. Wouldn’t it make sense that, if a block was tightly surrounded by other blocks, all the surrounding blocks should try to stay attached to the center one? Well, not in this game.
Worse still, once you start off, you’re almost never given a moment’s peace to tinker with your ship. Not all minions are hostile from the get-go, but those that are actively seek you out. Seeing as your parts break easily, being taken by surprise could very well mean you’ll end up losing more parts than it was worth trying to organize your ship’s layout for. When you kill the required minion to pass to the next stage, enemies will back off, but you are instead confronted with a countdown timer that unforgivably teleports you to the next stage once it expires, leaving behind any parts you happened to be moving around.
As a result, you’ll often end up with a ship design that is not symmetrical and therefor navigates or controls poorly, leaving you structurally weak and frustrated. You know you have no time to alleviate any of these issues, and you just have to deal with it.
Being a roguelike, the game has permadeath. No matter what stage you die at, you’re right back to the start. This would be tremendously less infuriating if the progression system wasn’t incredibly basic. Most roguelikes have systems in place where, even if you constantly fail, you’ll start unlocking new weapons or armor that may show up in your next ‘dungeon’. This would help change things up and give you a chance at overcoming the odds.
However, in Captain Forever Remix, the only progression is reaching the fifth stage with the last starter kit you unlocked. So, if you happen to not be very adept at a certain playstyle, you’ll sadly be stuck trying to reach level 5 with it (and believe me, it’s tough, even on Easy) unless you’re content repeatedly playing with the other ones you’ve already unlocked. If you’re not willing to give up, you could very well be stuck attempting this for hours on end with no progression. This strikes me as a serious design flaw, as this only invokes frustration
I also found it a missed opportunity that you couldn’t mix up your unlocked starter kits. The balancing to not make this overpowered is already present, as parts themselves have a level grading and the starting level (green) parts have very little health and damage power. But right now, selecting a different starter kit will switch over your composition to a specific set of parts, which will be floating around if you haven’t built it up before. If you have, the game will remember the last composition you put together for that starter kit, as long as you haven’t quit the game in between.
Finally, the only other mode this game has to offer is sandbox mode. In it, you’ll find the last five thousand ship combinations you’ve created and can favorite any one of them. There is already a thriving Steam Workshop present for this mode, and it has some very crazy designs present, such as a ship designed visually and functionally as a sword! Once you’ve picked a design, you can take it for a spin in the sandbox. I’ve found most of my enjoyment here, as I would take the sword ship and simply cause mayhem wherever I collided with an enemy. Destruction guaranteed! Furthermore, there are some cheat options available, but only for those who’ve reached the last stage. I don’t fully understand why the cheats need to be locked behind that skill gate, as anything done in the sandbox doesn’t give you any progress, not even for achievements.
In the end, I have to say that it’s nothing but a small few poor design choices that hold back Captain Forever. Having a more forgiving progression system, combined with allowing some more customization (even just in the form of mixing up starter kits) would certainly give this game the edge it needs. Captain Forever Remix is by no means a bad game, but could certainly do with a little bit more polish and a few adjustments.
Captain Forever Remix was reviewed on PC using a Steam key provided by the developer.
Captain Forever Remix is a game with potential, held back by a few poor design choices. A more forgiving progression system along with allowing more customization could make this game one of the greatest in its genre