A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The game encourages player creativity, perseverance, and experimentation. But it does also come off a bit heavy-handed in its political messaging.
Positive Role Models
This title balances player choices in tandem with aspirational characters in an interesting way. In the story, the activist group "Next Space Rebels" gains popularity, and it's up to the player to decide how to interact with the group as well as to what extent. Allowing the player to make this choice is very effective in making players aware of both the benefits and risks of sharing their voice online. It also allows the player to think about what being a role model means to them, which works perhaps more effectively than simply featuring positive character traits such as braveness and ingenuity (which are traits also featured by RocketGirl and the Next Space Rebels).
RocketGirl, who is one of the only characters to appear onscreen, is female-presenting and appears to be non-white. She's a very successful content creator and is depicted as a role model. This title also contains positive messages about social justice as it relates to science, specifically by speaking out against billionaires spending their wealth on space programs instead of using their power to help others.
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Ease of Play
Objectives are very clear within the game, and with no penalty for trying to complete a challenge over and over again, this leaves a lot of room for players to feel comfortable trying out as many design ideas as they'd like.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some simulated comments which appear under the player's posted videos contain sexual innuendo. These don't have particularly crass or vulgar language.
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The internet often contains adult language, and Next Space Rebels' simulated internet is no different. Players can expect the use of inappropriate words, including the use of the word "f--k," in the comments section under the player's videos.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Next Space Rebels is a downloadable strategic simulation game available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, and macOS. Taking on the role of an amateur rocket builder, the player embarks on a journey to become a top content creator on StarTube (a parody version of YouTube). Inspired by aptly named creator RocketGirl, players will take on challenges to break top rocket speed and height records as well as use strange materials in their builds, such as children’s toys, fireworks, and recycled trash. While the educational element of simulated rocket science may appeal to younger players who may be learning about model rockets in school, there's an overarching story exploring citizen science through a distinctly anti-capitalist voice. There's adult language, including the word “f--k” as well as sexually suggestive themes, which are both found in the simulated comments section of the player’s videos.
Is It Any Good?
There's a lot going on in this rocket simulation game, between launching rockets and balancing activism. Initially, it’s pretty jarring to realize that Next Space Rebels is trying to merge together essentially three different games, but over time, it gets easier to settle into. The rhythm of rocket-building, video-posting, and constantly checking your messages for updated tech and challenges begins to feel natural, and as the rocket-building becomes more advanced than simply adding a few extra parts to your beginner rocket kit, there's excitement about what's possible. After countless failed builds and a Google search history full of questions about jet propulsion engines you never thought you'd have to ask, the feeling of finally beating a tough design challenge is unmatched. The in-game design software is also very user-friendly. Not only is everything organized in a way that makes it easy to find, but the speed at which players can make a rocket, test it, and immediately come back to the drawing board if their plans don't work out is impressive. This is a key element that really helps keep players invested and reinforces that there are no consequences for a failed idea.
The weak spot lies in its storytelling. Pretty early on, the player will be introduced to an activist group that aims to raise awareness about the privatization of space programs by billionaires. While this issue is all too relevant now, the game's commentary about this can feel preachy at times. Seemingly small decisions such as agreeing to a video sponsorship will cause characters to bring the ethics of this decision to the forefront, which feels confusing and out-of-place. It's one thing to start a conversation about potential ethical problems with income inequality or privately owning scientific advances which have, in the past, been part of publicly-funded programs. But there's an ominous, borderline accusatory undertone throughout the story that can make players feel like all of their choices (i.e. to join or not join Next Space Rebels or whether to exchange messages with underage fans on StarTube even though you are an adult) are always going to be wrong. All of that said, though, it's up to the player to put that aside. If players can manage that, it's worth it to enjoy just how much fun launching a rocket made out of tin cans, discarded toys, and way too much rocket fuel can be.
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