Review: Space Miner: Space Ore Bust HD (iPad/iPhone) Deliv-Ores the Fun

SpaceMiner4Uncle Jeb is one heck of a space miner… And one terrible businessman. In Venan Arcade’s Space Miner, you take your pick of either a male or female anime inspired avatar and step in to help Uncle Jeb out of trouble with killer robots, greedy corporations, and mysterious alien technology in this Asteroids inspired action adventure. Space Miner is classic arcade action with a sweet coating of JRPG goodness!


SpaceMiner2Starting with what could best be described as a pickup truck with a pop-gun, you’ll blow up rocks and robots while beaming up ore to buy new parts for your customizable ship. Using a spinner on the left and fire, thrust, and special buttons on the right, you’ll powerslide your way around an ever expanding grid of arcade levels representing Uncle Jeb’s asteroid field. Controls can be flipped to the reverse sides or even dragged around to your own custom positions. The size of the ship’s steering wheel can be modified and an auto-fire toggle can be enabled from the options menu. Space Miner’s control customization suite is second to none. Ship controls are intentionally slippery and strike a great balance between Newtonian physics and gamey precision. Colors are bright and vibrant featuring a nice selection of 3D models for both ships and asteroids portrayed against a variety of 2D space backdrops and even the occasional nebula. Asteroids break apart with gorgeous explosions and the generous use of dust effects display a polished art style that would be right at home on even on console systems.  I would have liked to see a few more in-character ship designs. The flavor and setting of Space Miner lends itself much more towards trucks and tractors than the sleek space fighters you’ll be piloting for most of the game.

SpaceMinerWhile the arcade portion of Space Miner alone would make for a fine diversion, it was the RPG meta-game that really got its hooks in me. There isn’t much to the top level meta-game, but gathering cash for my next series of planned upgrades, finding nav buoys to unlock new sectors, and searching for derelict ships to plunder adds an addictive quality. Available missions are clearly marked on the overview map and will wait until you are ready for them should you desire to strip mine the galaxy bare on your quest. Along the way you’ll meet a charming array of characters such as Galactus, the most boring alien in the universe, and the woefully incompetent space hero Slate Slabrock who pop up from time to time to offer side jobs or Star Wars references. Taking a cue from Japanese console RPGs, character art is sharp and detailed without being overly busy. Animation is minimal and Space Miner eschews voice action altogether. While I was initially turned off by the overly chatty introduction/tutorial portion of the game, the cast grew on me and brought a definite sense of place to the world of Space Miner. Writing is sharp and humorous with bad puns even invading the menu system. Even when Uncle Jeb is on the verge of accidentally destroying all life in the universe, the game is light hearted and whimsical; A fact that is only accentuated by Space Miner’s soundtrack.

And, oh, what a wonderful soundtrack it is! Sure, Space Miner features all the usual pew-pew, pop, Boom! you’d expect from an Asteroids clone, but it is the bluegrass inspired soundtrack that cements Space Miner’s universe, characters, and themes together. The introductory theme has made my very short list of favorite video games songs joining the ranks of such notable pieces of music as Stones from Ultima and the intro themes to Morrowind and Deus Ex. It is rare in this medium to find a piece of music that, in 15 or 20 seconds, can makes you feel exactly what the designers were after. Be it the relaxed banjo plucking while customizing you ships or the familiar harmonica riff that welcomes you home after a mission, Space Miner’s music is the most important character in the game. It brings the whimsy more so than even antics of the story’s characters. Should the soundtrack not be to your liking, Space Miner also includes the option to play your own music in the background, an option missing in FAR too many iOS games.

SpaceMiner3Like all good southern dishes, Space Miner serves up a staggering amount of content for a low price! 60 achievements are available and connected to Apple’s Game Center. Uncle Jeb’s Asteroid field is a large 48 square grid of levels hiding a wealth of alien tech and optional sub-missions. Space Miner even offers a New Game+ mode allowing you to carry over discovered relics and unlocking increased difficulty HardcOre modes. The in-game statistics page that tracks over a dozen variables from both the current game as well as your profile as a whole is just gravy on the grits. Completionists will have a field day with this one!

Space Miner: Space Ore Bust is a must play! It’s a giant bowl of polished arcade fun with big chunks of space truckin’ character drowned in sausage gravy. Don’t miss out one of the best hootenannies on iOS!

Space Miner is available for all iDevices running iOS 3.0 or later for $2.99 on iTunes.

Space Miner HD is available for iPad running iOS 3.2 or later for $4.99 on iTunes.

A free arcade style version, Space Miner Blast, is also available for free from iTunes.

Reviewer Rating: 5/5 Stars – Hootenanny5star

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