After a few hours of playing Captain Forever Remix by Pixelsaurus Games, I have to wonder how the developers managed to crawl into my brain and make a game based on my memories of growing up so accurately. Playing this game is like going back to the slightly-sticky arcades full of neon lights, clicking buttons, fast food, and carpets with random vibrantly colored squiggles and triangles. My brother is even there, calling me a butthead again and challenging me to a videogame. To top off this giant pile of nostalgia, CFR features some of my favorite game mechanics: permadeath, customizability, and replayability. While simple in theory, the game has a lot of unique ways to keep you playing again and again. For an Early Access title, it’s pretty damn impressive.
Captain Forever Remix is described as a “love letter to growing up in the 90’s” and draws inspiration from the “heyday of amazing and weird cartoons.” The art style and colors remind me a lot of Aaahh!!! RealMonsters, Hey Arnold! and, of course, Ren and Stimpy (which I was not allowed to watch). They have definitely achieved their goal. I played the game nearly all day yesterday and now today I am stuck in a bout of 90’s nostalgia, listening to Dookie-era Green Day and wearing an old flannel shirt (though to be fair it is autumn here, so…).
In Captain Forever Remix, you control a small, single-block command core and add on various bulkheads, thrusters, and weapons to build up your ship into the raddest, baddest ship you can. Every piece you add on (and where you add it on!) changes the way the ship maneuvers and fights, so keep that in mind as you piece together your spacecraft. When you start a new run, you can choose different ship starter kits, though to gain access to different kits you have to unlock them through gameplay.
There’s a variety of bulkhead sizes and weights as well as different types of weapons – basic single-direction lasers, prismatic lasers, missiles, guided missiles, etc. The different kits give you ship parts with various specialties – a sniper kit is one of the first kits you unlock, for example. As I played I found that I have a fondness for the close combat kit with its prismatic lasers – though be warned with the prismatic lasers: if you attach them too close to other parts of your ship you can and will destroy your own ship. I learned this the hard way so you don’t have to!
Gameplay itself is pretty straightforward. You move around and shoot at enemy ships. However the maneuvering is really the trickiest part. Depending on how you built your ship, maneuvering could be very easy or it could be sluggish and leave you at a serious disadvantage. Additionally, when you defeat an enemy’s command core, the remaining pieces of their ship can be picked up and added to your own ship. This means that you probably don’t want to destroy large portions of the ship, but rather hone in on the command core. What seems like a straightforward, Geometry Wars or Asteroids type 2D space shooter turns out to be a game full of customization that makes you think about your ship choices and where you’re shooting more than you might have expected.
If you played the original Captain Forever, most of that info isn’t new to you. Not having played the original, it was all shiny and new for me though and so I was very impressed with the customizability of the ships and how influential your building choices were over the actual gameplay. It took me quite a few playthroughs to get accustomed to how my ship was maneuvering and how to place thrusters to make it easier to turn. Although it’s not ‘new’, I really love this aspect of the game. Each run I can start off trying something different and as the game progresses my ship evolves and winds up with totally different parts than I started with. It makes each attempt fun.
Another way the game adds to replayability is through the upgrades you can buy. Every time you kill an enemy, you earn a bit of money. At the end of your run you get to keep that money and use it toward upgrades for different ship kits. For example with the close combat kit you can pay to increase critical hit chance. With the missile kit you can upgrade the evade chance. This sense of progress across runs is key for roguelikes and other games where you die and try again from the start.
After playing for a few hours, I decided to go try the original Captain Forever to see the differences. While the differences are mainly graphics and art related, I felt that they definitely made the game much more enjoyable. New weapon types and upgrades that have been added in are also a very welcome change. I freely admit though that this remix also plays heavily into my own nostalgia and is probably a huge part of my enjoyment. On top of the great nostalgic art style and narrative, the music in this game is great. Created by Emeen Zarookian, who worked on the Rock Band series, the music is wonderfully bright and chip-tuney. If you’re as big into artists like Disasterpeace and C418 as I am, you will be just as into the CFR music.
Now we come to the ultimate question that comes up with all Early Access games – is it worth buying in this stage of development?
I’d say yes. Aside from a tooltip sticking around onscreen longer than it should have, I’ve encountered no bugs. Gameplay wise, everything seems solid and I feel like it goes without saying that the art and graphics are highly polished as well. The only things I can see being changed or tweaked much are balance and kit acquisition. Maybe make the pings that alert you of where the enemy is happen sooner when you load into a level? And maybe Steam achievements and trading cards if they decide to go that route. Again, for an Early Access title, this game is very impressive and very solid. If you’re into spacey shooters and games that are maybe kinda roguelikes, definitely get this game.
If you’re the kind of person who would still rather watch and wait for a game to leave Early Access before you get it, I recommend following along the Pixelsaurus development blog. It gets updated pretty frequently so you can follow along with any changes that get made.
Captain Forever Remix is available now on Steam for $14.99 for Windows, Mac, and Linux and is currently 15% 0ff!
The code for this game was given to me by the developer.