I have fond memories of playing the Worms franchise back in my formative years, the skill involved in arcing a grenade throw over the landscape so the explosion caused maximum chaos is something that I’ve rarely experienced since. Reading the premise for Interplanetary it gave me hope.
I expected that the feeling would be the same, but instead of arcing grenades and rockets I’d be using railguns and ballistic missiles, dodging stars and using gravity wells to wreak havoc on my enemies, and to be fair to Interplantary this is kind of how it all went.
The premise here is that you, the assumed leader of your planet, must eliminate every other resident of any of floating rock in your solar system. Why this is the case isn’t really made clear, to call the story elements bare-bones would be an understatement, with a few lines of text your only actual context for what’s going on.
Whilst this doesn’t affect the gameplay, it would have been nice for some reason to be doing what you’re doing (writing this I realised that Worms doesn’t have much context, but they’ve all got comical faces and massive guns, so it speaks for itself).
When you start a game, you’re greeted with an overview of the solar system and a zoomed-in 3D view of your own planet. You can rotate this to see the 5 cities that you have to protect (it’s game over once these are destroyed) and all the lovely space you have to build your death infrastructure. The solar system itself is constantly moving creating openings and simultaneously limiting options.
You begin by building structures on the surface of your planet, weapon systems, defences and energy sources. The weapons come in three flavours; ballistics, missiles and lasers. This is where the fun, and entire crux of the game lies; when firing your weapon it gives you a line of trajectory from your planet in to the cold vacuum of space. The solar system pauses while this line is on screen, and you must estimate where your projectile will go once it’s fired.
The key is that whilst the planets are static while you’re choosing where to fire, as soon as the trigger is pulled they all lurch back in motion. Object trajectory is affected by gravity from planets and the like, making accuracy quite difficult in the early game.
I was pretty rubbish at hitting anything with my ballistic weapons, occasionally I’d get lucky and it would smash against an enemy planet, but the chance of hitting one of the vital cities was pretty low. This changed with the upgrade to missiles; the aiming is similar to the ballistics but with the added feature of auto-lock once the projectile gets in range of a planet. The splash damage of the missile ensures that something, somewhere will be damaged.
The third tier of destruction are the lasers, this is a direct line of sight weapon that travels in a straight line. It hits with unerring accuracy assuming you can see the city you’re trying to hit. This is very effective, but not really as satisfying as curving a shot around 3 other planets before slamming it in to an enemies nuclear power plant.
There is a tech tree to explore, not unlike Civ, but this didn’t really add up to much at least for myself, and by the time the end game rolls around I didn’t have enough of my planets finite resources to go around. In fact, towards the end game I was either overpowered, with projectiles flying off in every direction, or decimated with no chance of rebuilding, and with no actual hope of winning.
Games can be played with A.I., or humans (the Enhanced Edition has added the ability to add A.I. opponents in to human games, which is great because there doesn’t seem to be that many people playing). The computer controlled opponents did a fine enough job; their aim isn’t always unerring, and the challenge seemed just about right.
While the actual ‘combat’ on offer here is entertaining, the rest of the package just seemed a little bare-bones to really recommend it. Even with the graphics overhaul, the UI is still bare-bones, with the white text on black background clinical and ultimately a little boring. The tutorial is all text based also, and even though the game itself is quite simple to grasp it can be a little daunting when you play for the first time.
The Enhanced Edition is free to anyone who previously bought Interplanetary which is a nice gesture, and something I’m sure will bring some players back to see what’s changed. With the added weapons, an overhauled tech research system and multiple minor gameplay changes it’s a decent offering for original owners.
It seems though, that once you’ve completed a few games you’ve seen pretty much everything that Interplanetary has to offer, with the skill shot mechanic not enough to keep players coming back and the lack of context for your actions simply not enough to drive things forward.