Games set in space are not a new concept, but few have been able to capture that sense of mystery and wonder the way Jumplight Odyssey has. Developed by Australian studio League of Geeks, (creators of fairytale strategy game, Armello) this space colony simulation takes cues from FTL gameplay and blends it together with a great art style and a fantastic soundtrack full of heart. While some mild turbulence prevents the game from a perfect take off (it is still in Early Access after all), the overall experience is far more star-studded than it is a blackhole.
An Astromantic Adventure
Players take on the role of Princess Euphora, captain of a Jumplight Starship who must guide her people as they flee from their destroyed homes in the wake of a Zutopan invasion. The goal is the mystical Forever Star and to get there, the ship “jumps” from system to system, all while saving civilians, exploring new galaxies and escaping hot pursuit. It’s as emotionally moving as it sounds, and this is conveyed through some stellar voice acting and the epic orchestral arrangements found in the game’s opening. At the same time, there’s also elements that show LoG have not taken themselves too seriously with some cute and silly character portraits, plus the pig that acts as the colony’s mascot because, why not.
The Captain’s Job
Your role as captain throughout this odyssey is one marred with responsibility and this is never taken for granted. You must care about everything, from the stress levels of individual members to monitoring algae crop for your colony’s biomass supply. Both have the potential to impact your journey in a big way and this feels like a blend of micromanagement from The Sims and the high-level strategy of Age of Empires. It might seem tempting to want to dismiss the feelings of your crew but the objective is fundamentally people-centric, when your colony has run out of ‘hope’, the game is over.
Because of how many variables there are, you’ll never truly run out of things to do. You’re constantly putting out fires (sometimes literally), sending out expeditions to gather resources and remodeling your spacecraft to suit the needs of your growing colony. While you have officers who lead the various spaceship divisions (Engineering, Science, Supply and Combat), you’re still needing to check on each person, to see if they’re depressed, injured or both. If you’re someone who loves getting stuck into the details of inventory management, crew drama and optimizing systems, hours will easily go by playing Jumplight before you’ve resurfaced and wondered where half your day has gone.
In one of my first runs, my Supply officer began to underperform due to high stress levels and I wasn’t able to figure out what to do beyond requesting Princess Euphora to Inspire her. While this seemed to help, the officer was still unable to fully recover so I did the terrible boss thing – demote her and put someone else in charge. This didn’t seem to have an impact on the character’s emotions but I still felt crummy for doing so. Perhaps this is what they mean about serving the greater good.
Orbital Anomalies in Early Access
In the current state of Early Access, Euphora’s Odyssey is the only campaign available which comes with an optional tutorial. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the tutorial, as it really walks you through all of the game functions that are finicky enough as it is.
I found ‘Build Mode’ to be the trickiest part, as I often ran into situations where build controls either stopped working or the UI wasn’t intuitive enough that I ended up doing something wrong. It took me several attempts to realize that the ‘Clear Debris’ button needed to be hit only once to clean a semi-destroyed room as I thought I had to delete each mound of debris one by one. Another time, I attempted to create more Jumplight Cartridges in anticipation of my next jump but no matter how many times I hit prioritize on ‘Construct’ and ‘Haul Resources’, no one actually came to finish the job. These are bugs already acknowledged by LoG with the media build of the game and will hopefully be resolved by the time Early Access is publicly available.
Space Vibes and Cartoon References
Regardless of what specific cartoon you grew up with, Jumplight Odyssey somehow manages to hit all notes of nostalgia. There’s clear influence from 70s anime such as Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Battleship Yamato but the romantic portrayal of the galaxies also reminds me of Buzz Lightyear in the first Toy Story. Princess Euphora somehow looks like Stella from 2000s anime Interstella 5555 with hints of Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time. As all of this flashes through my mind, I can’t help but have Daft Punk’s One More Time playing in my head.
It’s a culmination of these references, the music and the overall look of Jumplight Odyssey that ultimately allows it to transcend to be more than just a sim management. There’s a vibe to the game that makes you feel fuzzy inside and want to play more, even if you lose run after run. My favorite thing above all is the consistent theme of hope throughout, whether that’s for a better future for your people, for chasing a faraway dream and for attaining it against all odds. That and petting the pig, is what makes Jumplight Odyssey worth playing.
|Developer||League of Geeks|
|Publisher||League of Geeks|
|Release Date||Early Access available August 21st, 2023|