Playing Critic: Raising funds takes all the fun out of 'Vostok Inc.'

Playing Critic: Raising funds takes all the fun out of 'Vostok Inc.'

Remember the '80s?

I'm certain the creators of "Vostok Inc." do.

Graphically, it's like the game was thrown together on "MS Paint," and it uses the limited color palette characteristic of ancient EGA-capable computers, including a lot of pink.

And the basics of game-play in this twin-stick shooter mash together a bunch of arcade classics, including "Asteroids," "Smash TV," and "1942," all wrapped around a core "Greed is good" concept.

The general idea is that you're piloting a spaceship in a bid to rake in moolah. You start off in our solar system, where you can: shoot asteroids and collect the resulting moolah; land on planets and use your moolah to construct upgradeable mines, farms, power plants, etc., in order to make more moolah; and use that moolah to update your ship and, eventually, venture to other solar systems where you'll rinse and repeat.

Of course, your money-making scheme isn't entirely unopposed. For instance, in Earth's solar system, you'll have to fend off constant attacks from a rival conglomerate/crime syndicate, helmed by a guy who looks like a cyborg version of Perry the Platypus' boss from "Phineas and Ferb." In each new system, a similarly colorful personage will taunt you on behalf of your enemies.

Most of the time you're fighting off just a few alien ships at a time, but every so often they'll trap you in a confined zone, where you'll have to withstand waves of enemies. If you succeed, you'll rake in a bunch of moolah.

The moolah is both the point of everything in the game and its biggest weakness.

You start off with a basic ship with a single, slow-firing machine gun, no radar and limited health and shielding. By accumulating moolah, you can upgrade your ship at your motherbase. That means acquiring more weapons and improving them (missiles, particle beams, "love" guns, etc.); bulking up your ship's health and shielding; and getting the radar components to detect asteroids, planets, enemies and more.

But many upgrades are very costly, running up into the trillions in some cases. And how do you accumulate that much dough, especially when a single mine placed on a planet rakes in just 0.1 moolah per second to start?

It's simple, but horrible. You just turn a planet into a money-making operation by building it up, building by building, for a few minutes (no aliens attack while you're on a planet), then put down the controller and go do something else for a while. Eventually, you'll build up enough dinero to get the upgrade you need.

Oh, I should also point out that you only collect money from a planet when you are on it — unless you buy that planet's ATM option, which grows in cost every time you purchase it for a planet.

You'll have to choose between flitting from planet to planet constantly to build up your cash, battling alien ships continuously along the way, or park it and walk away from the game for a bit.

When a game makes it easiest to advance by not actively playing, that's a bad thing in my book.

That said, you can also while away some of the time enjoying a few acquirable minigames. To obtain them, you have to rescue managers floating alone in the void. To find them, you first must buy the manager module for your radar.

As it stands, "Vostok Inc." isn't that good of a game. The twin-stick mechanics and alien battles are quite decent, especially if you're nostalgic about 1980s/early-'90s arcades, but because of the ridiculous moolah system, advancing through the game is annoyingly slow and you'll probably find yourself putting down the controller to make any progress.

That's just bad design.

Joel Leizer is The News-Gazette's Playing Critic. Contact him at jleizer@news-gazette.com.

'Vostok Inc.'

Platforms: PS4, PC now; Xbox One, PS Vita coming.

Price: $14.99.

ESRB rating: E10+ for everyone 10 and up.

Topics (2):Internet, Technology