GamingReview: Heavenly Bodies

Review: Heavenly Bodies

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One small step for man, one large step for fiddly controls and budding astronauts. Entering earth’s atmosphere at a pedestrian pace is Heavenly Bodies, a short physics puzzle/simulation game where you undertake spaceman duties with your individually controlled arms that flail around at the behest of your dual analog sticks and zero gravity.

This isn’t your standard control-your-limbs game (like Human: Fall Flat, I Am Bread or Octodad) though, so if you thought that giving someone a wedding ring with tentacles was hard, try doing it without gravity where one wrong movement will send your body floating in the wrong direction! Those who enjoy a challenging simulation may get a kick out of it, but for most casual gamers the honeymoon period of the novelty-like controls and floating in space might be over sooner than you’d expect as the controls frustrate and become the main focus of the game while the remainder fails to excite.

Don’t let go. JAAAAACCCCCKKKKK. Wrong movie – sorry.

Floating from one section to another, you must set up research modules, communication satellites and even extract samples from rocks in the earth’s orbit. Other than flying a little space pod, this is mostly done by connecting cables to the relevant socket and cranking levers while holding onto something in the space station. There is a certain level of satisfaction to be gained from completing the seemingly impossible tasks you are provided with especially when they require you to make adjustments outside of the space station, resulting in some highly dangerous and tension-filled leaps of faith. 

Unlike the aforementioned games, there are 3 different sets of controls that you can choose from here ( Assisted, Classic or Newtonian) but even though there has been a distinct effort to make it accessible, I still found it far too hard to adapt to. This meant that I often ended up undoing what I spent an extended time attempting, whether it was re-folding some apparatus that I just unfolded or collapsing antennae I just extended. It’s quite hard explaining how hard it is exactly, but with your body very rarely vertical, knowing which direction to push your analog sticks is a task in and of itself. 

Losing your grip and ‘falling out’ of your space station and into the empty void will result in a countdown and an eventual George Clooney-like death (it’s not a spoiler if I don’t mention what movie it’s from!) which the soundtrack, that sounds like its been taken from a deep-sea diving documentary, does a decent job conveying the isolation throughout.

Follow the instructions you must.

The rather unpleasant death is actually the only game-like challenge that prevents you from completing your task though, as you can otherwise spend hours on them without worrying about limited tools or retries due to the game’s sole focus on the completion of chapters. Disappointingly, there’s also as much story as there is gravity in this game, with very little linking the chapters other than the tasks becoming more complex, which seems like a wasted opportunity for at least a few interactable characters on the space station or at least a few lines of dialogue with Houston.   

With a plural in the title – as opposed to Heavenly Body – it is perhaps no surprise that the local co-op is where the real potential of the game lies, with it finally getting the chance to shine through with another layer of interaction. Fair warning though – working as a team does not make it any less stressful!

Heavenly Bodies takes a gimmicky control system that’s traditionally been combined with a lighthearted and amusing concept and instead makes an earnest physics simulation out of it. Without any other gameplay mechanics or story though, its 6 stages feel like a space station DIY kit with countless steps and mandatory instructions, but minus any real fun.

SUMMARY

+ Atmospheric soundtrack
+ Interesting tasks
+ Fun to show schoolkids in Physics class?
- Highly frustrating controls
- Very rigid task system
- Lack of any story or reason for actions

Played on PS4. Also available on PS5, PC and MAC.
Alex Chessun
Alex Chessun
Currently obsessed with the Yakuza series (minus no.7), Alex is an avid fan of immersive Open World games, quick pick-up-and-play arcade experiences and pretty much anything else good. He also desperately wants Shenmue 4 to happen - a lot.

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Review: Heavenly Bodies+ Atmospheric soundtrack <br/> + Interesting tasks <br/> + Fun to show schoolkids in Physics class? <br/> - Highly frustrating controls<br/> - Very rigid task system <br/> - Lack of any story or reason for actions <br/> <br/> Played on PS4. Also available on PS5, PC and MAC.