Spaceteam is a local, multiplayer game. You connect with friends on iOS devices via Wi-Fi. (This is just the waiting room.)

When the game starts, you have to juggle commands for your teammate(s) and listen for the buttons you need to hit.

It’s incredibly frantic, and your controls will fall apart when you fail.

But winning by shouting? So satisfying.

But winning by shouting? So satisfying.

Co.Design

A Stellar iPhone Game Built On Sci-Fi Mumbo Jumbo

Can you build a game out of the nonsense shouted in sci-fi shows? Yes. Yes you could.

Set Gryoyoke to 3!
     Close the Omegapipe!
Engage Fluxomotor!!
     Empty the recycling!

My wife and I are shouting this nonsense at one another, our eyes glued to an iPhone and an iPad, respectively. Our pulses are racing. Our fingers are pounding. And our voices are growing horser by the moment.

Jam Halfbobbin!
     Set Teleroboto to 2!
I don’t have the Teleroboto!
     Oh sh*t! I have the Teleroboto!

We’re playing Spaceteam, a new iOS game by Henry Smith, who recently left Bioware to create indie games. Spaceteam is his first release, and its premise is borderline genius. You know how you’ve watched shows like Star Trek and all the characters on the bridge shout techno mumbo jumbo while punching fake displays? Spaceteam takes that scenario and, through a fantastic UI/mechanic, puts you right in the captain’s chair of nonsense.

Each player (up to four) has a control pad—a series of levers, switches, dials, and buttons. Different commands appear simultaneously on each player’s screen, and generally, these commands are for the other person. So I shout at my wife to adjust teleroboto settings while she’s purely concerned with me closing that omegapipe. Because if we’re both not fast enough, our controls take damage, begin falling apart, and will eventually explode along with our ship.

So how is this possibly fun, you’re wondering. Well, it’s downright hilarious to babble five-syllable nonsense in a life or death situation. "I had loads of fun just coming up with random technobabble, so I figured that was a good sign," Smith tells me. "And I could tell from the first prototype (which only took a couple of weeks to build) that the basic concept worked."

It just takes such a ridiculous amount of concentration to speak so much silliness while looking for the right switch to save the day—a switch that might be dangling from your console after hitting an asteroid—and so you’re laughing at yourself the entire time. The game only grows harder and sillier as you level up. Words are replaced with symbols (the gondola button slayed me), and gestures take the place of taps (your team will have to invert their phones to avoid a wormhole). You’re also in a constant state of commanding and receiving orders, which creates an intense social dynamic that puts you in power and fault at the same time. So even though you’re getting screamed at, you can’t get angry about it, because you’re yelling every bit as frantically.

Spaceteam, through clever UX alone, is actually a perfect simulation of living in a television sci-fi world. It’s not the real future, mind you, but a means to interact with this pile of stylized BS suspended in parallel to our disbelief. Now jam the freaking halfbobbin already! We’ve got children on this boat.

Download Spaceteam here.

[Hat tip: Moat & Beam]

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3 Comments

  • Jesse Fuchs

    P.S. One key difference: Spaceteam is for 2-4 players and works well with all of those, whereas Space Alert is best with 4 or (preferably) 5.

  • Jesse Fuchs

    This is a great game, and I've been recommending it to everyone. If you like it and want a meatier (though equally) frantic experience, I suggest you check out its boardgame inspiration, Vlaada Chvatil's 2008 game Space Alert. Still considered arguably the best pure co-op game out there, and, despite being hilariously complex (you have to nudge the mouse in the spaceship's cockpit at least once during each phase of your mission or else the screensaver turns on), its manual is extremely well designed, with both a rulebook and an entirely separate tutorial, complete with Starship Troopers-esque training officer monologues to be read aloud. It's a real gem, as many of Chvatil's games are.