Kerbal Space Program Preview
As the rocket climbed past the 5km above sea level, the solid fuel rockets finally ran out of fuel. But this was all according to plan. The crew fired the decouplers, severing the now empty motor modules from the rest of the rocket. But as the rockets began to fall earthward, suddenly everything went horribly wrong. One of the ejected engines collided with a liquid fuel tank, igniting the volatile contents with a cataclysmic explosion which caused the rocket to start an uncontrollable tumble towards the earth. Despite their frantic efforts, the crew were unable to eject the command module before what little remained of the once proud rocket crashed into the side of a mountain, ending the 10th ill fated attempt of the Kerbal Space Program to reach orbit.
Developed and published by Squad, Kerbal Space Program is the lovechild of a flight simulator and the creature creator from spore; using a very intuitive and flexible vehicle creator you can turn your fevered childhood imaginings into gaming reality. With a very simple drag and drop mechanism, you build huge multi stage rockets with ease from an unfortunately limited range of stock parts. But creating your ramshackle, liquid fuelled behemoth is only the first step because now you get to fly it into space!
Wings: Not strictly necessary, but damn they look cool
The controls are very simple and easy to master and consist of WASD and QE to control the 3 axis of rotation and the space bar to activate the separate stages of your mighty space vehicle. This can be a lot hard than is sounds, especially if you forgot to make your rocket symmetrical or you forget to tweak the engine firing sequence. But once you get the hang of it, you can have the time of your life sending your three little green cosmonauts into orbit and back again (hopefully in one piece). If you get bored of that, the community and the developers occasionally run semi-official and official competitions the most recent was to launch a heavy telecommunications satellite into a stable 250km orbit . This shows that Squad are serious about keeping their community happy despite the scarcity of the original content, which is always nice. The developers have a lot more content planned, including the chance to build space stations, colonisation of the local solar system or even just launching more satellites.
Jebediah obviously knows something the others don’t. Or he just doesn’t care.
In a stroke of genius (or pure laziness) the developers are actively encouraging players to create their own rocket parts, from telecommunications satellites to the inevitable Star Trek style nacelle engines. These addons help add a wide range of choice to the game. Do you use standard liquid fuel engines to keep your craft light weight, or do you use the monstrous 5 metre diameter engine to give you nothing but power? Downloading these mods prevents the game becoming stale but also it means you can paint your spaceship black, cover it in skull and crossbones and pretend that you’re off to plunder the solar system. And if you think that doesn’t sound fun, your doing it wrong.
I have found this game to be astoundingly addictive. To put this in context, this review was almost finished 2 days ago, but every time I start the game to take some screenshots I find myself trying to perfect my Rocket designs: tweaking the engine sequences to try and conserve fuel or altering the number of radially mounted solid fuel motors for that critical boost of acceleration to get away from the launch pad. Time after time my rocket flew apart, either exploding in the air or just collapsing on the launch pad, but I just giggled at the look of horror on the crews face and tried again. So I will offer you all this warning: Play this game at your peril, otherwise you too will find yourself looking at the clock and wondering how 4 hours have gone that quickly.