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Space Ark Preview

Geon makers return with a retro treat

Do you remember when games were jolly? When the key to success wasn't how angry you could make your protagonist, or how many shades of brown you could coat the walls with? 20 years ago all you needed was a bright blue sky, happy animal hero and a crap-ton of fruit to collect - Space Ark resurrects this spirit.

From the makers of psychedelic puzzler, Geon, Space Ark is a simple yet deep puzzle game which has you bouncing one of a roster of mental-looking critters around collectible-filled playing fields.

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The plot (as if you give a monkeys) has a group of animals evacuating their home world in a giant spaceship just as the planet's swallowed up by a black hole. In theory - though we haven't researched the scientific accuracy behind it - bouncing around the empty rocks the animals find during their space travels will teraform them into lush inhabitable worlds.

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It's hard not to be charmed by Space Ark's colourful and arcade-inspired universe. Once you've chosen an animal - which hatches from a hi-tech space egg - he'll do a little dance. In the tiger's case it's the running man, but we've also seen a break dancing donkey and a zebra that does the robot. They've won our hearts already.

Gameplay, as you can see from the video above, involves bouncing your cat or turtle around the playfield hoovering up collectibles and fruit power-ups (how long has it been since we've seen that in a game?)

Due to the fact that you control both the bounce pad and your character independently with the thumb sticks, it's trickier to get to grips with Space Ark than it seems. Once you do however, it's quite a laid back and score-led experience. Space Ark is all about racking up combos (i.e. grabbing a whole bunch of collectibles in one jump) and landing on your bounce pad successfully.

At first the playfields are spread across 2D planes, but once you move onto other animals and more difficult levels the action will span around curves and corners, just like Tempest. This makes it more difficult to nab slowly falling fruit and claim your lucrative perfect collection record.

Similar to Geometry Wars 2, Space Ark also displays your Xbox Live friend's scores on screen - so there's always an incentive to aim for an even better run.

It's a tempting prospect then for fans of old school arcade and relaxing gaming experiences alike - and it's surprisingly polished for a development team consisting of just four staff. Space Ark is due on Xbox Live Arcade in April for 800 Microsoft Points.

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