Like most kids, I went through an astronaut phase. I never did get to go to space camp, though I had a friend who did. I’m not salty over it; I had an amazing childhood. My aeronautic itch was scratched by building LEGO space crafts, throwing G.I. Joes with grocery bag parachutes out of my second story bedroom window and setting off model rockets. Little did my childhood-self know that, as an adult, I would have control over my very own space program! This is our review of Kerbal Space Program: Enhanced Edition for Playstation 4. KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM PS4 REVIEW
I’ve had my eyes on Kerbal Space Program (KSP) since it entered early access on Steam in 2013. If you aren’t familiar with what this game is all about, the concept of KSP is contained within the title: as the player, you are put in charge of an entire space program of the Kerbal people – an amalgamation of Despicable Me’s Minions and LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy.
Taking on the role of director of KSP, you are given a pre-established aeronautics campus complete with a variety of buildings to help you manage the program. For fundraising and public relations, you have the Administration Building. To assemble vessels for use on your launchpad or airfield strip, you have a Vehicle Assembly Building and Spaceplane Hanger, respectively. To enhance your program’s technological capabilities, you have Research and Development, which can be funded by completing contracts from Mission Control. Let’s not forget that we need brave Kerbals from the Astronaut Complex to fly your combustible deathtraps… I mean, your highly advanced aeronautic rocket ships.
Your space program progresses through the use of a three currency system. As you complete missions, retrieve data, or set world records, you will receive Reputation, Science, and Funds. Funds are used for facility upgrades, hiring Kerbals, and building crafts. Science is earned as you reach further points in space and collect data. It is spent in R&D to enhance your technology. Reputation can be used to develop marketing strategies, but can be lost if any of your Kerbals… go missing.
As for gameplay, the learning curve for KSP is steep. Playing KSP is an exercise in trial and error… and a lot of it! I can’t tell you how many Kerbals I sent to their fiery graves in the process of learning how the game worked. While my inner sixth grader thought this was amazing, it didn’t help me much in the way of progression. Of course, I started my campaign before realizing that there was a tutorial. A very, very helpful tutorial.
(Don’t be like me. Don’t skip it.)
Putting together a vessel in KSP is less like building a LEGO spacecraft and more like actual rocket science. No joke; there is a scenarios mode that was developed in partnership with NASA! While the planet Kerbin is not an exact proxy of Earth, the physics and orbital mechanics are fairly true to life. There is an in-game manual that teaches basic principles of things like lift, drag, force, and thrust, as well as more complex principles of aerodynamics and eccentricity. No, not the “that’s a nice way to call someone weird” eccentricity (though there is plenty of that in KSP), the “this is how far from circular orbit you are” eccentricity. See? You can learn something from a video game after all!
As you are assembling your craft, not only are you organizing parts, but you are also planning out the stages of operation for those parts. You wouldn’t want your parachutes to fire off as your thrusters fire or decouple your command capsule from your rocket as you’re leaving the launch pad. I never did that… except for those two dozen times I did. While in flight, you can record scientific information, observations from the flight, and control the variously equipped do-dads you built into your ship.
One of the biggest questions that I went into this review with was this: Does Kerbal Space Program translate well onto the console?
I can’t speak to the operation of KSP on the PC, but I have experienced several performance issues on the PS4 with the game stuttering, input control delays during gameplay, and what felt like a lack of consistency in how missions were completed. The use of a controller to assemble parts was challenging until I discovered that pressing down on L3 would give me a cursor to work with.
That being said, I find myself strangely addicted to hurling little green men and women into outer space. Maybe it speaks to my pioneering spirit, child-like wonder of the starry sky, or that I just like explosions! Whatever the case, there is something to this leveraging of tangental learning: it is fun and educational without being the cheesy “edutainment” of the early ‘90s. (I’m looking at you, Math Blaster…)
If you are looking for a space program simulator with both light-hearted humor and are inclined to feats of engineering, this game may be just what you’re looking for. But be forewarned, mastery of Kerbal Space Program is an investment of time and $40. When it comes down to it, if you are considering KSP, it is also worth considering if the console or PC platform is where you want to make that investment.
Whatever direction can you go, I can say this: It’s less expensive than Space Camp. Go get yourself one of those freeze-dried ice cream bars, strap a Kerbal or two to some rockets, and call it good.
COMPARE TO: Space Engineer, Tycoon-style games
KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM PS4 REVIEW SCORE: 6/10
- True-to-life physics
- Trial and error produces explosive humor
- Loads of content
- Steep learning curve
- Inconsistencies in objective completion
- Using the controller (outside of flight) feels weird