When you play a game that exists in a genre that’s already heavily populated with awesome titles, it’s easy to jump to negative comparisons. In the case of Sweet Dogs Studios’s Signs of Life, you’ll be having too much fun to think about how games like Terraria or Starbound may be more expansive.
Signs of Life is what Sweet Dogs Studios defines as a “sci-fi survival sandbox platformer”. It mixes different elements of crafting games while adding an adventure game feel through the storyline. The premise of this game is that you’re one of the lone survivors of a devastating incident which left most of your crew lost or dead. Your task is to land on the planet (which is conveniently Earth-like) your crew originally intended to investigate and survive long enough to find out what happened to them. In spite of the morbid implications left through the clues about your crew that you’ll find throughout the world, Signs of Life manages to stay light-hearted and keep you focused on exploration and fun.
When you first start out, you’re given several character creation options. Since the game is still in its Early Access stage, your options are limited (you can’t create a female character, for example) but the developers have promised to expand on the character creation system in the future. Upon learning this, I simply opted to make the most girly-looking dude possible and ended up with pink slippers and a super-saiyan haircut. You then make your landing on the planet via your escape pod and quickly discover that you’re going to have to improvise in order to make it.
The crafting options in Signs of Life were a lot more intuitive and varied than I initially expected. You have dozens of options from the very beginning, and as you discover new areas and objects, your virtual companion AGIS compiles new recipes for you. AGIS is only one component of your infinitely useful wrist-laser device, which is what you use to break blocks and collect items. The only thing the wrist-laser can’t be is a weapon – you’ll have to just settle for guns, crossbows, swords, and a plethora of other weapons you can craft based on your preferences.
One of the more difficult aspects of the crafting is perhaps the gathering of the actual materials. Although some of the materials require a common-sense driven gathering process (picking up rocks from the ground, chopping down trees for wood) others require exploration (you probably won’t find a battery in a tree). You’ll also have to get used to figuring out the base components of certain objects by looking through their recipes and trailing backwards in order to achieve crafting that item. That may seem cumbersome at first, but the crafting menus are built in such a way so that everything is easily sorted and found.
My personal favorite thing about Signs of Life has to be the art style. The backgrounds that seem to move with you are beautifully done and serve as a contrast to the blockier style of the actual playing space. The graphics give an overall sense of polish to the game that may not always be present since it is still an Early Access game. The music that plays in the background is mostly non-intrusive and peaceful. While it serves to make sure that the planet you’re on isn’t entirely silent, it’s not enough to make you feel like you’re not alone – which was probably the point. Signs of Life really emphasizes the fact that you’re a lone survivor, isn’t always pleasant. The game will definitely benefit from the eventual implementation of multiplayer, as do games like Minecraft and Terraria.
With Signs of Life, Space Dog Studios has created a game with plenty of character. It’s through intuitive gameplay and special attention to detail that this game will stand out in the eyes of those who play it. When Signs of Life is finally finished and out of Early Access, it will likely have the potential to be a contender among the Terrarias and Starbounds of the genre. At $8, Signs of Life is worth the investment. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.
[+Intuitive crafting system] [+Beautiful art style] [+Humorous Easter eggs and dialog] [+Good ambient music] [-Some features not perfected yet] [-Sense of loneliness when you play for too long] [-Limited character customization] [-Early Access]