Did you know that, in zero gravity, whole milk weighs the same amount as low-fat milk? That’s right! This means that astronauts can enjoy all sorts of dairy products without facing the consequences—it’s one of the many benefits of the profession. Unfortunately, becoming an astronaut requires years of training of a sort which most of us couldn’t endure, so, the 99.9% of the population stuck below the stratosphere will have to rely on Space Cows for the PC and Nintendo Switch to get our space-based lactose laughs.
The inaugural effort from indie development outfit Happy Corruption, Space Cows is a tough-as-nails twin-stick shooter mechanically similar to games like Assault Android Cactus+ or perhaps Enter the Gungeon sans the rogue-lite elements. Set entirely in a gravity-devoid alien spaceship, players assume the role of a cartoonish, rotund protagonist by the name of Best Regards and are tasked with rescuing abducted cows. This is all conveyed in a short introductory text crawl childishly titled “the story so fart,” and, aside from that, there really isn’t much to speak of in terms of narrative.
Restricted entirely to two dimensions of movement, Best Regards quite literally farts around each level slinging toilet plungers at inhumanoids and capturing cattle while pursuing the level’s exit. Anyone who has ever played a twin-stick shooter in the past will feel at home here, although the lack of gravity makes controlling the character something of a slippery, unwieldy affair. He doesn’t stop on a dime, and it almost feels like Best Regards is on ice. It doesn’t necessarily detract from the experience, but it makes for a slight learning curve.
Players are primarily matched against what the game calls “mootants”—green, slime-looking creatures who can only do contact damage and are only threatening in numbers. There are several variations, of course: some shoot projectiles, some wear little hard hats and take multiple hits, some are massive and can only be damaged when their shields are down, and some shoot projectiles and take multiple hits. The most threatening enemy is by far the Metroid-looking turret which shoots a sizable, speedy blast which requires some seriously developed evasion skills. They’re shielded and often take upward of four to five shots to bring down, and they can be a major nuisance when paired with other enemies.
Full Moojo Rampage
As previously mentioned, Best Regards’ only method of attack is a plunger which he launches at enemies. Though the combat mechanics work exactly as you would expect them, one major gripe is that Regards can only shoot one plunger at a time. This means that shots have to be well-aimed, lest the player be caught defenseless waiting for the shot to dissipate so they can shoot again. That said, the combat is still fluid and satisfying, owing partly to the gratifying squish of a defeated mootant or the thrill of a successfully executed death-defying dodge.
With that in mind, Regards does have a few tricks up his sleeve to tip the scales in his favor; he can fart, which propels his body out of harm’s way with the push of a button and is functionally indistinguishable from a dodge roll, and a bullet-time mechanic which allows him to slow down time and line up a perfect shot. Beating the game will require udder mastery of these gameplay mechanics, and they’ll feel startlingly similar to anyone familiar with games in this gene. Overall, it makes for a compelling combat experience which, though sometimes frustrating, has an arcadey appeal to it that’ll keep players coming back.
Space Cows operates on a lives system very similar to something we might expect from an old school platformer; players can take up to five hits (on the intermediate difficulty, at least) and can replenish their health either by picking up fairly rare milk cartons or by collecting three-hundred individual blobs of milk. Players can also earn milk based on their performance in one of several optional mini games scattered throughout the levels, and the system makes earning extra health feel as rewarding as it makes losing health feel devastating.
Moo-re Than Meets The Eye
Visually, the game is serviceable enough. The bright pinks and purples of the walls contrast with the harsh greens and reds of the enemies, and it’s all done in a very cheerful cartoon style which, though it betrays the game’s teeth-grinding difficulty, is definitely appealing. That saturated, boisterous style also carries over to the game’s humor, which is definitely hit or miss. Relying almost entirely on dairy-related puns and utterly (har har, once again) dumb one-liners, most players are likely to find this just a bit grating. It’s not exactly integral to the experience, though, and can be ignored easily enough.
Space Cows is the sort of game which could easily be overlooked amid the absolute torrent of indie titles available on Steam and the Nintendo Online Store. Yet, it’s definitely more compelling and worthwhile than a lot of the shlock we see crowding digital storefronts these days. It’s utterly (alright, enough of that) unforgiving at points, and players’ enjoyment of it will largely hinge on their ability to tolerate difficulty. On the whole (milk), it’s a fun little romp which, though a little grating at points, is worth the $12.99 asking price and stands as a solid example of how much fun inexpensive indie games can be.
3.5 Out Of 5 Stars
A review copy of Space Cows was provided to The Gamer. Space Cows is now available on for the PC and the Nintendo Switch.