Hermit Crab in Space

Winner of the 2013 PlayStation Mobile GameJam, Hermit Crab in Space is described by its creators as a fusion of Star Fox and Minecraft, and the end result is almost as strange as it sounds.

In our opinion, it actually plays more like Asteroids with construction elements, where you can pick up parts blown off enemy spacecraft and fuse them to your own, improving its firepower, speed and manoeuvrability.

Stranded in space and looking to return to your home planet, you have to fight your way through hostile sectors bursting with foes. The final foe in each sector has a warp drive, which can be attached to your ship and used to proceed to the next level.

Chop and change

Other attachments include lasers, boosters, shields, and power generators. Power generators can be placed alongside other parts to enhance their strength - so boosters propel you farther and lasers do more damage.

Creating the best ship is half of the challenge - if you've got too many boosters then your craft becomes unstable, and having too many lasers firing in the same direction leaves you vulnerable to attack from other sides.

Controlling your ship is straightforward enough. Every component can be assigned a button, so you can have your boosters controlled by the shoulder triggers.

To ensure your ship can turn, you'll want to assign one button to the left-hand boosters and another to the right. Lasers can be fired in unison or individually by mapping each one to a different physical input.

Pincer movement

When you run into a combat situation, your finely-tuned craft starts to break apart as components fail or are shot off by enemy fire. During these moments, you can tap an unattached item using the touchscreen and drag it back to your ship. This pauses the on-screen action and gives you additional time to change your strategy.

Hermit Crab in Space manages to update the 360-degree shooter genre with its unique ship-building gameplay. The process of crafting the best ship is addictive in itself, and seeing how your creation fares against bloodthirsty aliens is surprisingly entertaining.

Despite the innovative gameplay, things do become repetitive eventually - but for the low asking price it's hard to complain.

Hermit Crab in Space has all the hallmarks of an indie classic: an inventive concept, an amusing storyline, and a central idea which can only come from developers who are striving to do something different - albeit while paying homage to Flash game Captain Forever.

To top it all off, it makes superb use of PS Vita's physical and touch-based interface.

This review was edited on October 7th to reflect the fact that Hermit Crab owes a debt to a Captain Forever.

Hermit Crab in Space

Inventive, addictive, and eminently playable, Hermit Crab in Space plays to the PS Vita's strengths
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.