Dave is back, and this time he brought guns! Aside from the guns, you gain from repeatedly lifting enemies over your head, Dave has an upward-facing, plasma-shooting cannon. Aliens are invading, and Dave wants them out.
Space Dave! by Choice Provisions is the spiritual successor to their hit title, Woah Dave! Even though both games feature the same titular character, their gameplay styles are vastly different. Woah Dave! focuses on destroying enemy eggs by throwing them or blowing them up, giving the game a more hands-on, physical approach. Meanwhile, Space Dave! draws inspirations from classic shooters such as Galaga and Space Invaders.
The difference in styles between the two also signifies what the games demand from each player. Woah Dave! feels like a friendly arcade game that doesn’t produce much guilt after getting a game over. It simply asks for management, foresight, and awareness, all while keeping gameplay addictive enough for you to keep coming back.
On the other hand, Space Dave!’s cranks up the action from 0 to 10 in just a few seconds. It’s not immediately evident on lower difficulties (Easy-Peasy and Normal), but your attention quickly juggles so many things simultaneously: enemy positioning, enemy shots, and your own shots. You also have to mind the occasional lava gaps and the subsequent shrinking of your space. It’s a welcome change nonetheless, albeit slightly startling.
The Bonkers difficulty, on the other hand, is a different story. Just a few seconds in and the screen gets filled with enemy bullets, giving Dave some movement problems. Enemies are more aggressive in trying to make your life as miserable as possible. Power-ups are even more valuable, as they increase your chance of survivability. Paired with quick enemy movements, players really have to be crafty and daring to chase an enemy around. One wrong hop and everything could come tumbling down.
This change of pace wouldn’t be so problematic if Dave’s gun didn’t require repeated mashing of the Y button. Dave can only shoot one at a time so holding the button down produces one shot every so often. Rapidly tapping it cuts this time by a little bit, allowing you to make quick work of a descending enemy that would otherwise kill you. But these rapid taps get exhausting really quickly when trying to survive through waves of enemies, with only a few seconds of respite before another onslaught. Having to mind how fast you’re pressing the button inadvertently adds another thing to consider when you’re already juggling multiple things on screen.
Fortunately, a variety of power-ups appear every so often to make Dave’s journey slightly easier. Enemies have a chance to drop game modifiers like Spread Shot, Rapid Shot (erroneously announced in-game as Double Shot), and Lava Freeze. Every so often you also get a drone shooter, which helps provide extra shots on screen to kill enemies quicker.
But perhaps the most notable power-up is the game’s “Space” block. Similar to the overpowered nature of the previous game’s “Woah” block, “Space” can turn a sticky situation into a manageable one. Used correctly, it can convert up to six enemies into shooting drones for Dave. They can also soak up enemy bullets for you so you can focus on pummeling the enemy. Just don’t be too attached because they’ll disappear once their hit points are depleted.
Thankfully, Space Dave! is such a pixelated eye candy that it’s easy to forgive it when your arm is no longer stressed. The game’s retro aesthetic is splashed with a layer of bright colors that looks even more beautiful when the screen is really busy. Enemy designs are as zany as ever, never failing to make you pause and stare at them in equal parts admiration and disbelief. Their movements are detailed enough to convey their status effectively during battle, yet they still manage to make you ask, “Why the heck does that mouth have butt cheeks?”
Of course, a Dave game wouldn’t be one if it didn’t have some catchy tunes. Following the footsteps of its predecessor, Space Dave!’s music gradually evolves into a multi-layered track as you progress further in the game. It manages to turn itself from something that simply exists to something that perfectly complements the action and gameplay. Yet it manages to never distract you – its calculated beats subtly make their way through the recesses of your head so you can hum it later.
Space Dave! is not only an excellent successor, but it’s also a fun game on its own. The game evokes the stress and excitement from the arcade cabinet days, all while in the comfort of your own time. The game’s ease of entry helps make sure that players of all ages can enjoy it without too much trouble. Its beautiful retro graphics and catchy tunes definitely make an impression as well.
But at the same time, it’s also hard to ignore the fact that at this day and age, shooters such as Space Dave! still, rely on rapid button mashing. When games like Shutshimi can natively support turbo shooting without other requirements, it’s a bit confusing to consider that Space Dave! does not have the same system. Perhaps the game is aiming to reproduce how rapidly we tapped arcade buttons back in the day, and that is an honorable dedication to capturing the essence of the past. As long as you pledge to take breaks, Space Dave! will definitely be one of those games that you’ll keep revisiting.