Kerbal Space Program Alpha (PC)

This is one small crash for Kerbal, one giant explosion for Kerbalkind

Kerbal Space Program is currently only in Alpha. There is however a chance to put money down and buy into the game at this early stage, just like with Minecraft and the upcoming DayZ standalone. We’ve been playing the game for a few days now and even though this game is nowhere near finished, felt we had to share with you how much fun you can have with it as an alpha.

The Kerbal Space Program allows you to build vehicles out of a set of components. The basics are rockets, engines, crew pods and control systems/surfaces. So far so Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (an Xbox 360 game I can’t recommend highly enough). You put together these contraptions any way you see fit and then you can have a go at launching them. Where the game goes one further than Banjo is that there is an element of real engineering and aeronautics behind your decisions. The physics simulation isn’t true to life, but it isn’t terribly simplified either. If you build rockets underneath other rockets, they’ll get too hot and explode, if you place massive rockets on weak connectors they’ll break away. As fuel tanks empty they get lighter, and this affects the centre of gravity for your ship. The biggest problem in getting off the ground is balancing the tremendous weight of fuel against the thrust your engines can provide. The game encourages you to seperate your ship into stages, allowing you to jettison dead weight once the fuel is expanded. After downloading the demo I spent around an hour just making something that could get off the launch pad in one piece, and it felt like a real accomplishment.

To avoid the game becoming too clinical, your astronauts are the titular ‘Kerbals’, green skinned little creature that bear a slight resemblance to Beaker from the Muppets. All the way through your endeavours you can see them in the bottom right corner and watch their emotions turn from trepidation to joy or fear. Occasionally you’ll crash spectacularly and they’ll all die, and it almost hurts.

At the moments the number of components is limited. There’s enough to get you into orbit with some careful planning, and even to land on the Mun (Moon) if you’re some kind of, erm, rocket scientist. You can also perform EVAs and while it is adorable to see your Kerbals floating around (or terrifying when you realise they have no way to get back to your ship) there is not a lot for them to do at the moment. It seems as development continues you will be able to create space stations or bases on the Mun. Launches are somewhat persistent so you can launch one vehicle, and then launch another and find the original one.

To make up for this lack of components, the developers ‘Squad’ have fully enabled modding. Right now you can get parts and ships from real life programs such as Gemini, all the way to Doctor Who’s Tardis.The modding infinitely expands the possibilities with the game and in some cases modders are already adding in features promised for the future by the developers. You can get Mun buggies and re-entry class, or even just more efficient rockets to make life easier for yourself.

Kerbal Space Program is like an infinite Lego set for rocket nerds, and this can only be a good thing. It is extemely challenging, but this means it’s also rewarding. The graphics and sounds are fairly basic at the moment, but good enough to instil a sense of wonder once you finally break free of gravity’s clutches. It also enables the game to run on a number of different system set-ups.

There is a free demo available on the site


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