Review | 4/17/2014 at 4:00 PM

Space Farmers Co-Op Review

Pitchfork beats raygun any day of the week.

Space Farmers from Bumpkin Brothers is one half co-op puzzle solving and one half co-op arcade gaming. You'll notice both halves involve co-op, which means if you add them up the entire game is co-op! Like how that works? We knew you would.

The idea behind Space Farmers is that you and a co-op buddy take control of farmers who have been kidnapped by aliens. (It happens more often than you'd think.) Now they find themselves trapped on a giant ship planning escape route after escape route in the hopes they can break free. Gadgets, cube-like robotic monsters, lasers, rolling spike things and all sorts of other traps stand between them and home, not to mention endless light years of cold, dark space. Good thing British farmers are a tough stock, even without their daily cup of tea.

Since Space Farmers is strictly two player online co-op, you'll need to either host a game or join a match. After choosing your character's look, the farmers pick an escape route and the fun begins. Each round sends you through a handful of stages strung together end to end. Make it to the exit of one, start the next, repeat until you're back in the ship lobby area. Runs are randomized to send you through as many unseen stages as possible, but prepare to repeat areas several times before you see all the game has to offer.

Level design is pure co-op bliss. Rooms tend to split players' paths and send them on quests of their own, all in the name of helping out the other farmer. One character might need to deactivate a barrier that allows the other to continue forward, for example. You'll also encounter plenty of timing-based cooperative moments, most of which are of the "hold the button so that laser doesn't kill your friend" nature.

Items make Space Farmers an even crazier affair. Arm yourself at special terminals by pressing E. Each terminal only provides one item, forcing the two co-op pals to share the responsibility. Many times there will be an identical set of gadgets to equip. Other times you'll see two different items that need to be used in tandem in order to proceed. Along with a couple of basic point and shoot-type guns, the following co-op friendly items can also be found:

Potato Bombs and Detonator - A two-part item. One player lobs the bombs, the other detonates. Laser Cutter and Goggles - One player brandishes a pair of nifty invisa-vision goggles that shows the location of hidden land mines. Meanwhile, the other player holds an always-on laser. Hilarity ensues. Gravity Gloves - Lets you pick up things and put them in places. Like cuboid pigs on floor switches. Dynamite Hat - Tick tock until it goes boom. When it goes boom, so do you. Hover Backpack - Float over gaps like you're Superman or something.

That's not a complete list of items in Space Farmers, by the way. Part of the fun is discovering new gadgets and figuring out how to use them without killing yourself. Wouldn't want to spoil that!

While you're knocking down bad guys you'll see little purple turnip tokens falling to the ground. Grab them and stock up so you can unlock items for your character from the main screen. They're purely cosmetic and probably even a bit pointless, but you'll still want them something fierce.

Space Farmers' overall atmosphere is one of playful chaos and and cooperation. It's easy to die in this game. Frighteningly easy. If one player kicks it both have to restart the level, which can be frustrating after the tenth failure in a row. Especially when it's one person tripping over and over again. The other farmer, not you. It's always the other guy, right? Never you. Never! This is lessened somewhat when you get better at the game, but there's always the looming coin-op arcade-style fear of dying and having to repeat part of a level over again.

Repetition is a central part of Space Farmers. You'll replay levels multiple times (though they'll have slightly different configurations), find the same items, deploy the same strategies, mess up at the same traps, etc. It is at once a charming throwback to old school gameplay and a frustrating part of the experience. Sometimes you just want a new level, but there are only around a dozen at the moment. Hopefully a little time will bring a lot of new stages.

Whether or not you fall for Space Farmers' style entirely depends upon how much you enjoy gaming in the name of mastery. If storyline or hours of unique content are what you need, this won't be your bale of hay. If sitting down for short spurts of co-op puzzle solving and collective yelling at the screen is what you need, march right up to this trough and start munching away.