Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the- Oh, sorry, I'm still in the Christmas spirit. Since I don't want you guys to stay without a review even in the holidays, I'm going to present Into Space 3: Xmas Story by BarbarianGames. You might know the first 2 games, but if you don't, you might get the premise from the title; you build a giant rocket to collect candies and gifts to eventually save Christmas and get to space in the meantime. Things can't really get more awesome than this, you might think, but it's soon revealed to be more of a long, boring run, and that going to space isn't even credited other than a generic "reach X feet" achievement. But let's get to that later.
(Note: This game is fiction, don't put your head out of zeppelins to catch candies.)
The story's quite simple; our mad scientist is setting up christmas lights, gets electrocuted (older people here must know the feel) and KO'ed. After this happens, he has a dream where UFO's stole Santa's gifts, and of course, the solution must be building a rocket and flying to space to get 1000 gifts. (My sister checked Google's Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve, and it said our jolly old fellow gave away that amount of presents in 1/3rd of a second, but it's still an excuse for building a rocket, so who cares?)
The graphics are actually quite simplistic. The game's not ugly, by any means, but it certainly doesn't catch up to most others out there. The graphics are almost like they didn't change from the second installment back in 2012, maybe they even got a bit worse, too. With no map to see how close you are to space, and worse meters on the right side, this might well be a downgrade to average.
The sound, however, is good enough. The background music is quite satisfying, and makes up for the few sound effects (for example, the lack of the noise of the engine overall). It's not an epic masterpiece like you'd expect from any rocket game, but still, it's not bad at all. If you don't like it, though, you can set the music and sound effects with two seperate sliders while paused, or you can just mute them with buttons, just like it should be in any game.
And now, off to gameplay. The game's differing from other launch games, in that its goal is not actually reaching a acertain altitude like space (therefore contradicting its very title), but to collect 1000 pickups that randomly pop up and are extremely rare (in that you collect maybe one every game, but on luckier runs you can get as much as 20). Even better, you may only upgrade if you reach a certain number of such pickups, so you must grind through a ton of runs to upgrade yourself so you can grind less in the future! How awesome is that?
(Perhaps that's why they don't even display how many runs you've wasted...)
Okay, perhaps I'm a bit angered and thus biased, but this game's extraordinarily grindy. In a normal launch game, after 100 runs, you've probably completed the game already or you're trying not to. In this game, after more than that, I've collected less than 1/4 of the gifts necessary to complete the game and am close to just giving up. But hey, this game has side missions featuring a lot of innovation to make this pure boredom of a game fun, so perhaps I could try to play the- Oh wait, they're not there? Yes, the developer purposefully deleted the side mission feature for the sake of far-less-exciting integrated missions, which have much less variety (swapping "try to rotate the rocket sideways and reach the farthest distance while not passing a certain altitude" for "destroy UFO's") and less rewards, thereby erasing a key feature in the series.
The innovation here is making scoring harder, since the largest and only one in the game (trying to get gifts instead of a certain altitude) is actually making matters worse for the player, and therefore giving a high score in this category (which it could and should get) would give you guys an inaccurate representing of the game. Other than that part, though, it's another one of the vertical launch game genre, where there are far too many games on the same principle, and apart from the core principle change, nothing else's different.
Finally, the other things I've noticed. Having played the second part of the series, it's quite sad that the sequel has erased a lot of great concepts that finally made it inferior to its precedessor. The sheer amount of achievements are not making it easier to achieve your goals, and the grind needed to finally finish is far too much to be bearable.
Graphics: 3/5 (Certainly worse than most other games out there, this game looks like it's been stuck a few years back, but it's still not totally bad.)
Gameplay: 1/5 (With incredible amounts of grind and no progress seen, this game borders on being literally painful to play.)
Innovation: 2/5 (The only thing seperating it from other launch games making it actually worse, this is only 2/5 because they've at least tried.)
Audio: 4/5 (The high point of the game, I could accept this game's audio as a background music in most games.)
Other: 1/5 (The fact that many features were taken out from its prequel - probably for the sake of meeting the deadline - disheartens me enough to take 2 points away.)
Overall: 11/25, 2.2/5 (rounded: 2/5) (Yes, the title was misleading; this game makes your mood plummet down to the depths of boredness and monotony instead of making it rise up. A really bad attempt at hastily putting together a Xmas sequel for a series, turn the engine off and run from this game. Have a nice holiday.)