I’m a huge fan of simulators, and the majority of my articles on Windows.Appstorm are about them. I’ve recently discovered one that is the perfect blend of accurate physics simulation, coupled with the objective of being fun and none-too-serious. This game is called Kerbal Space Program and has gotten me hooked, now I’d like to share .
So what do you do? Well as of the latest Alpha version 0.15, you can build rockets and spaceplanes which you launch and fly yourself into orbit around a fictional earth-like planet called Kerbin with two moons, the Mun and Minmus. The pilots of your creations are the Kerbals, their dream is to go where no Kerbal has gone before.
What makes this game so impressive and fun is that you do build your own creations from scratch. From a list of various components, you drag and drop and reposition them together to create something which you consider airworthy. You then take it to the launch pad or runway and see what it can do. It’s one of the best sandbox games ever made, and it’s only in the Alpha stages.
When you go to the ‘Vehicle Assembly Building’ you get presented with a construction area and a tabbed window for selecting parts. Each part has attachment points which allow you to connect it to other parts. On the right your parts are broken down and listed into the rocket stages. The program does a pretty good job of working out what you want to separate and when, but sometimes you need things to fire in a different order. This is achieved by dragging and dropping the components (normally rocket engines and separation modules) into new units. The stages are released from top to bottom – Here’s one I made earlier.
Once you’ve finished designing a rocket to have fun with, you take it out to the launch pad. Check everything is as you want it, initialise the first stage, and throttle up.
If rockets are not your thing a similar facility exists to build spaceplanes. Although the idea is to fly to orbit and back you are just as free to fly within the atmosphere as a regular aircraft. Many fans find it even more challenging to build an exceptional aircraft than a rocket.
The design/creation process is very similar to the one used to build rockets. All the parts are available for you to use, and the assembly defaults to horizontal construction.
Space, and Orbit
Once you make it into space, everything is actually much easier. Taking off and getting to orbit is the hardest part of the game. If you do manage to escape the atmosphere and enter a stable orbit then you have three choices. They are to perform a de-orbit burn and return to earth, transfer to another gravitational body such as the Mun, or go and build/launch another rocket and leave the current one (perhaps along with others) in eternal orbit. You can always resume control of them later if you wish.
The Orbital Map (shown below) is something you can drop in and out of at any point in your flights. It shows all of the active or landed spacecraft, debris, and their orbits. Most importantly it shows you the top and bottom nodes of your orbit, so you can make a good job of getting them high enough, modifying them and so forth.
Is it a game everyone would enjoy?
Perhaps not everyone, but certainly anyone who thinks being able to build a rocket is good fun. Obviously some people are going to be more space-y and flight-minded than others, but there are plenty of tutorials and guides out there telling you what’s going on. You don’t even have to try for space, just enjoy building planes or controllable ballistic missiles.
Where can I get it?
Head over to the Kerbal Space Program Website to give the trial version a go. That version is 0.13 and while it doesn’t contain the spaceplane package or the Minmus moon (0.15), it does let you build rockets to decide if the game is for you. If you like it then the full version is only $15 (~£9.50) and that gets you the current version and all future upgrades.
Since I’ve been raving about it throughout this review you’ve probably come to the assumption that I think Kerbal Space Program is a great game, which is spot on. It can be a bit graphicly-intensive at times and so not everybody may be able to run it. If you suspect you can then do, I promise you wont be disappointed.
For the Appstorm rating, I award Kerbal Space Program with 10/10 – I love it. It’s fun, easy, and addictive.
The game is in an Alpha state but is already rock stable, so we can wait for new exciting features to come as development continues.