Messing around with mushrooms is never a wise pastime. While some varieties taste great in a stew, consuming others can lead to serious illness and hallucinations.
Thankfully, in the universe of Space Harvest you can ignore such warnings. Due to a global fungi apocalypse, mushrooms no longer grow on Earth, so mankind has ventured into the depths of space to find alternative deposits on distant planets.
Taking on the role of a new recruit in the Earth Federation’s intergalactic mushroom-picking task force you’re given the opportunity to prove yourself by bringing a decent haul back home.
It's a psychedelic take on classic real-time strategy: a trippy Command & Conquer: Red Alert.
Give me spore
As you ascend the ranks through the seven available missions, you need to become intimately familiar with the process of mushroom collection.
Harvesters are the only vehicle capable of gathering this sought-after commodity, yet they have no way of defending themselves, so you need to assemble military units - both ground and air - to guard your harvesters when they’re out in the field.
Of course, the facilities for constructing new units require solar power to function. In order to do this you have to build photovoltaic panels, which in turn can be made more effective by researching scientific improvements in your laboratory like energy-saving light bulbs.
Finally, there are other ways of securing your position against whatever hostile units may be lurking nearby. You can establish a defensive parameter around your buildings and even lay down massive gun emplacements to ward off unfriendly forces.
The trouble with truffles
The need for all of these precautions is obvious once your spacecraft touches down for its debut mission. With mushrooms being so incredibly important, you’re not the only person in the galaxy after them.
Each level pits you against a rival picker who not only endeavours to harvest more than you, but also tries to knock out your precious units and strike your HQ at every available opportunity.
This core gameplay doesn’t really change as you advance through the seven available missions, although as the difficulty ramps up the need to become savvier with your strategy and make use of more advanced units and buildings grows.
Early excursions see your opponents taking a passive attitude: they only retaliate when you attempt to encroach on their territory. It’s not long, though, before they actively seek out your units and attempt to punch a hole in your defences.
Space Harvest controls very well, with basic taps being using to select and direct your units. Double-tapping allows you to select multiple units of the same type or access sub menus for certain structures. There’s even a pinch-zoom command which allows you to pull the viewpoint back in order to get a better perspective on the battlefield.
Lost in space
When you consider that Space Harvest is the work of a tiny team, it’s an incredible achievement. Nonetheless, there are some negatives to report. The selection of units is pretty meagre, although promised updates are expected to bring more into the mix.
The lack of multiplayer is also a massive disappointment. Space Harvest is primed for playing with friend and yet the short single-player campaign does nothing to seize that clear potential.
Again, it’s something to be included in a future update, but in our eyes it’s almost inconceivable that such a game could hit the market without this near-essential feature in place.
Still, Space Harvest remains a solid single-player strategy experience. It doesn’t offer the same depth as the games it seeks to emulate, but it manages enough thrills to earn recognition as a fun, if limited, enterprise.