Developer: Venan Entertainment, Inc.
Price: $2.99 Download on the App Store
Space Miner: Space Ore Bust is a dual-stick, Asteroids-style shooter with a brain and a funny bone. It shows off what a little creative storytelling can do for a game that is a fairly well-worn—and decades-old—idea.
Yes, you’re still in a spaceship in the middle of an asteroid field. You’re still trying to blast and evade the rocks. You’re still hoping to clear as many screens as possible. But the story line, roleplaying, and mapping aspects layered on top of the familiar “Asteroids” theme make SM: SOB – note to myself, be careful with this acronym – a completely different game.
In Space Miner: Space Ore Bust, you’re a tenderfoot miner helping out your uncle Jeb, whose business sense leaves something to be desired. He gets into hock with the local bank, as initially represented by the attractive if less than entirely trustworthy Ms. Frost. Naturally, the solution to Jeb’s problems involves your hard work—namely, blasting asteroids and collecting their dust; blasting robot mining ships and collecting their parts; collecting floating space tourists; and so on.
Hokey banjo and jaw-harp music infuse a touch of nineteenth-century backwoods flavor into the scifi story, adding to the humorous tone of your adventure.
Space Miner: Space Ore Bust skips the screen-after-screen tedium of the Asteroids genre, instead allowing you to “discover” new sectors as you download data from navigation buoys. Each screen is actually a little patch of space, and you can return to any sector you are licensed to visit.
You earn licenses as your experience grows, and you earn upgrades for your ship as you collect valuable items. Space Miner offers seven different interdependent aspects of your ship to upgrade. For instance, to power a certain amount of gear elsewhere, you need a new reactor, and to carry more than one weapon, you need a different hull.
These RPG-style choices compel you into buying not just the equipment, but the story line too. You end up not only blasting rocks, but blasting rocks for a reason.
Background graphics in the sectors could be a bit less annoying. They are static—actually slowly changing— backgrounds, so they seem to give the lie to the conceit that your ship is moving, by providing a stationary point of reference. Other graphics – of Jeb’s space station, and of the cast of characters – are cute, and about what you would expect of a cartoon attended by a speech balloon. The in-action graphics are not especially good or bad, but fit the theme well enough.
The draw of Space Miner: Space Ore Bust, however, is its charming “save the farm” story, its funny characters, and its deep upgradeability and progressive challenge. Pick up Space Miner, and you won’t put it back down before the phone needs charging. That’s a promise not a threat.