First Impression: Ziggy's Cosmic Adventures
Updated: Sep 22, 2022
While rotating my left wrist to rebalance cabin pressure and using my right hand to decrease throttle to idle, I was suddenly tumbling through space. Stabilizers offline after an unexpected collision with an asteroid, I make eye contact with a drawer full of little green aliens watching me borderline panic as I grab the yoke and begin to assess the damage. I'm laughing again just thinking about it.
Ziggy's Cosmic Adventures is a room-scale virtual reality space flight simulator that places emphasis on system management. This game is still in development and gathering feedback about the alpha demo. There is still plenty of time for changes to be made and new features to be added, so this is a first impression of the Ziggy alpha build demo, which represents the gameplay seen in the trailer above.
Virtual reality in-flight games and simulators are usually a seated experience limited to headset support only. Some titles take it further, incorporating VR hand controllers for cockpit interaction or are compatible with some pretty cool peripherals like flight sticks and button boxes. Indie developer Stardust Collective went in a different direction, opting to have players stand in a room-size cockpit with a pair of touch controllers as the primary means of input. Remember VR matches up with the actual room area 1:1, so you really do need a decent amount of space to play in.
When I started up the alpha demo, I spent most of my time just exploring the ship, trying to understand its systems. Tutorials are still in the works, but honestly, most of the systems are pretty self-explanatory. Every switch, bar, button, lever, and flight yoke can be interacted with by grabbing, twisting, pressing, and flicking using a pair of virtual hands controlled by the touch controllers.
All onboard systems are within arm's reach, though taking a step here and there is a way to make interaction easier. Physically moving around this space to manage systems but then step forward to grab the flight controls is kind of a next-level experience. That doesn't sound like a lot, but just taking a few steps here and there adds to the feeling that you alone are managing the spacecraft. Whether you're recharging oxygen, activating energy shields, or managing one of the other shipboard systems physically twisting around and reaching out defines this game's immersion. The developers even have the control console to the right of the flight controls double as what would normally be the pause menu. Audio levels, resolution settings, in-game assists, and all other essentials are there.
All systems within the ship are powered by energy cells that are recharged with aliens called Ziggy. Both the energy cells and the cute squishy aliens are manufactured in a cassette tape controlled generator - inserting a cassette and pressing the Start or Play button produces the item the cassette is labelled with. Placing a dead battery and a Ziggy into the extractor saps power from the alien and recharges the energy cell.
Accumulating too many drained aliens within the cockpit can be dangerous, so it's important to eject them into space with the ejection port for safety and to keep the area uncluttered. This energy source is as vital as it is mischievous. It's slightly dark cartoonish humor but also a smart move making the power source a mascot-like character that is part of the game's overall identity. The developers certainly know this as there is even a costume design contest in progress.
Hilariously enough, the greatest ally you'll have on this journey is drawers and shelving space. Any place you can store energy cells, program cassette tapes, and Ziggies is prime real estate. When system alerts start blaring or hostiles begin firing upon you, you'll suddenly appreciate having access to things that are at waist level rather than rolling across the floor ever farther away from you—shoutout to the drawer beneath the hyperdrive. You can be my wingman any time.
It's hard to pin down the exact dimensions of the spacecraft since there is no third-person view, and the wings or fuselage cannot be seen from the cockpit. But seeing a flight yoke immediately made me think of a slow civilian vehicle. The yoke controls pitch, roll, and yaw with different sensitivities depending on how much input is received. There's a noticeable control curve beyond a certain point. Slight movements of the yoke are great for pointing the nose of the spacecraft to allow its fuselage-mounted, forward-facing guns to fire on targets - asteroids of various sizes or unknown enemy turrets that are firing at you. In order to get full maneuverability applying full input to the yoke is needed. Take hold of the yoke and really commit to moving your arms in the desired direction of movement. This ship is highly responsive to large movements making it easy to deftly barrel roll over objects.
The throttle is just as responsive with its three settings, high, medium, and low. There is little to no engine spool up between each setting. Physics-wise, things are very arcade. There are no worries about gravity pulling you into a planet or an inefficient turn wasting forward momentum while you go sliding out into space.
For those that like comparisons, playing Ziggy's Cosmic Adventures feels like a mixture of flight from No Man's Sky and Job Simulator style task focus, but it's certainly no copy of either one. The full game is scheduled to release in Autumn (Fall) 2021 with 12 linear levels, a dynamic progression system and more for the price of 20.99 EUR / 19.99 GBP / 24.99 USD. Of course any of this information could change in the future, so be sure to keep an eye on this title by following it on Discord, Steam, Twitter and YouTube. See the official website for links.
About the Author
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.