There are few games that have caught me off-guard as effortlessly as Space Age: A Cosmic Adventure.
Its expertly-judged nostalgia sees game ideas and aesthetics of the past blended masterfully within a fun, genuinely witty story, all enveloped by a killer soundtrack.
You play as 'Private' who, like an intergalactic spin on Guybrush Threepwood, has dreamt all his life of being a spaceman, despite his assumed ineptitude.
As Private's first mission draws to a close, his team prepare to leave the alien planet Kepler-16. That is, until they encounter the planet's inhabitants, who have other ideas on the matter.
Sharing Private's general bewilderment at the situation he finds himself in are the rest of his team, comprised of the usual Star Trek-esque suspects – there's the Engineer, the Science Officer, the Doctor, and the Captain.
Written in the stars
And while it could be mistaken for some kind of follow-up to the excellent Spaceteam, instead Space Age is closest in gameplay and tone to classic point 'n click adventures like The Secret of Monkey Island and Sam & Max Hit the Road.
Like those games, the pixel art visuals carry a huge amount of charm, evoking classic sci-fi futurism along the lines of TV shows like The Jetsons and Lost in Space. Then there's the wonderful flappy-head talking animations so beloved of the early-90's LucasArts adventures.
Other gameplay nuggets slip in among the witty dialogue too, with some minor stealth sections giving way to simple shooting sequences if you get spotted.
Nearly every gameplay idea you'll encounter in Space Age is discarded as soon as the sequence it appears in is complete, keeping the game fresh at the expense of more considered action further on.
The game also has smart secondary objectives lightly sprinkled throughout most chapters. You might have to complete a combat section without losing an ally, or remaining unseen whilst sneaking through an enemy stronghold.
These minor challenges form the main core of the game's replayability. With a runtime similar to a pre-DLC Monument Valley, Space Age is a similarly linear ‘small-but-perfectly-formed' release - utterly brilliant while it lasts, but unlikely to warrant return visits.
Special mention must also be made of Cabel Sasser's incredible soundtrack, composed to perfectly accompany on-screen action, whether things turn dramatic, suspenseful, or just plain trippy.
So - in case I'm not being clear - Space Age ticks more or less every box for me, though players who are deeply attached to more modern gaming sensibilities might struggle to see its appeal.
Indeed, the game's lack of initial tutorials saw me convinced that I'd found a game-breaking bug in the first chapter, until I realised I could tap and drag to move the view around an area.
Other niggles are present. With all dialogue being text-only, the timings can be a little too swift. And when played on an iPhone, the characters are tiny on the screen, making them quite hard to see, which is a pity.
Play on an iPad though and Space Age truly comes to life. It won't challenge you particularly, but in terms of quality over quantity, this will certainly be one to watch when the Pocket Gamer team is compiling its 'game of the year' list.