Title: Space Food Truck
Version Tested: PC
Available On: Windows PC, Mac OS X, Linux
Developer: One Man Left Studios
Publisher: One Man Left Studios
Genre: Deck-Building Card Game
Official Site: SpaceFoodTruck.com
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Where to Buy: Steam
When The Nerd Stash first covered Space Food Truck, One Man Left Studios was nearing the end of a journey to expand beyond the mobile platform and test the waters of PC/Mac/Linux development for the first time. The designers spoke eagerly in a press release about the opportunity to build deeper, more compelling experiences than they felt they could create on handheld devices. After spending time with the latest Early Access build of Space Food Truck, I think they’re well on their way to doing just that.
Space Food Truck is a cooperative deck-building card game built into a space adventure full of danger and gourmet food. Up to four players can join forces to gather the universe’s freshest ingredients, fly recipes to hungry planets, and keep the space-faring food truck from falling apart. While the game possesses the requisite sense of humor for a good sci-fi food game, Space Food Truck‘s gameplay and presentation seem to offer all of the depth and strategic challenge that One Man Left had promised.
How a game of Space Food Truck plays out depends on whether you’re playing alone or with a group. In solo play, you control the food truck’s entire crew of four, including the captain, the chef, the scientist, and the engineer. In multiplayer games, each player will take over one crew member’s responsibilities. Both gameplay modes require careful management of resources, effective use of character specialties, and frequent cooperation (whether with another person or another character you control) to deal with crises as they occur.
Space Food Truck’s interesting gameplay is a byproduct of the game’s well-designed inner card game. It’s easy to get the sense that you’d be having just as much fun if this was a tabletop game using cards and board game pieces. That said, players will appreciate the way the user interface is laid out, with screens and tools available throughout the ship to help you plan your next move.
The Early Access build isn’t perfect. One of the bigger issues I have with the game in its current state is the ease with which players can completely waste a card. Want to use a card you forgot to charge or didn’t invest enough charge points in? No problem, you’ll just lose it. Some Steam users argue that caution is the responsibility of the player. Fair enough; I argue this is a design oversight affecting something that isn’t quite explained well enough to begin with. The developers seem to agree. Several posts on the Steam discussion threads suggest they’re looking to improve this mechanic in later builds of the game.
It’s worth noting that the difficulty balance seems to be under heavy development with big changes to gameplay experience in each new build. Where players of the last build complained about easy wins to the point that it was hurting replay value, I found the current build to be pretty harsh. Space Food Truck keeps players guessing with frequent random events. A few are good (like a pep talk from the captain resulting in players drawing an extra card) but most are terrible (ranging from immediate ship damage to life support loss every x turns until the crew dies in outer space). I’ve had several games end abruptly in the 30-40 turn range when even a strong crew was not able to withstand one or two well-placed crisis cards. The ultimate gameplay quality may rely on One Man Left finding just the right balance for this system.
I thought the sci-fi cartoon art style lent itself well to the subject matter, but the actual implementation of that style is off-putting in its simplicity at times, though again, some of these assets may be spruced up prior to the game’s full release. Perhaps more importantly, the user interface is well-thought-out. Players will have no trouble finding their way around the various screens or playing and manipulating cards. Animations and effects are all on point, which is a pleasant bonus for an Early Access game.
The sound design is one of Space Food Truck‘s greatest features. The opening theme wouldn’t seem out of place in a space film, the atmospheric sounds are well-suited throughout, and the card-related sound effects are inexplicably satisfying. Wait until your first hand is discarded. That felt good, didn’t it? The game’s sound is one of the surest reminders that One Man Left Studios has left the mobile arena.
The overall presentation of Space Food Truck goes well above and beyond what you’ll find in many card games. One round of playing cards, traveling, researching, cooking, upgrading, downloading blueprints, purchasing cards from the store, and moving the crew between quarters will remind you just how deep the game system goes. It’s easy to get lost in your own strategy while you play.
One thing to keep in mind about the game’s presentation is that, to get started, new players are urged to watch a series of videos explaining basic gameplay and each of the various character classes which can be found at the developer’s YouTube channel. Unfortunately, this video series runs nearly twenty minutes in total. It’s unclear whether an in-game tutorial is forthcoming but, until that time, I suggest trying the game after watching the first video explaining the basic play.
The biggest presentation issue can be found in the planetary navigation system. While the traversal of the randomly arranged universe is generally fun, it’s sometimes a pain to interpret routes and chart a course to your destination. Unless hovered over, map clues are represented simply by an X. Hovering over the X will reveal the name of the random event that awaits you at that location but it’s up to players to either remember the details and impact of that crisis or make an educated guess about your desire to experience it. Ideally, the final version of the game would feature a scroll-to-zoom system on this screen where more information could be presented, then all would be forgiven.
All told, Space Food Truck is a cleverly-designed game that’s already in pretty good shape. It’s fairly easy to pick up, fun to play, and has plenty of replay value, but there’s still plenty for One Man Left Studios to do. If the development team makes good on its stated intentions and stays aware of player feedback, Space Food Truck could be in for a great run.
- Gameplay: Clever game mechanics makes for a fun experience. Difficulty balance is all over the place in the current build.
- Graphics: Style creates a great sci-fi cartoon feel. Some graphics are currently a bit too simple.
- Sound: Excellent music. Sound effects and atmosphere are all great.
- Presentation: Makes the game feel much fuller than a typical card game. The availability of information at each stage is well-thought-out. Navigation system needs improvement.
- Actual card game is clever and fun
- Sound design is awesome
- Feels like much more than a card game
- Multiplayer support and random challenges make for good replay value
- Navigation system needs work
- Currently no tutorial for new players
- Some graphic assets are too plain
Todd Mitchell is a game industry journalist with experience in professional software and indie game development. His writing addresses games, industry news, trends, and community issues.