Spaceplan is the newest in the lineage of . Like a grade-school science project gone very wrong, Spaceplan finds you stuck in orbit around an unknown planet on a ship whose only power source is potatoes. You’re accompanied through the game by the ship’s Word Outputter, which, in current AI companion fashion, is full of snark while being more or less ambivalent to your survival.
The abstract objective of Spaceplan is to accumulate potato power, which you then use to create more starch-based generators and initiate upgrades for your current space spuds. With a similar lack of gravity, your ship’s sophisticated tools are labeled Thing Maker, Word Outputter, and Idea Lister. You know, standard scientific equipment. The Word Outputter is just the game’s way of communicating with you via text, while the Thing Maker and Idea Outputter list clickable items for creating sources of potato power and potato upgrades respectively. It even has a Scientifically Accurate Mode, whose only difference is switching the unit of measurement from watts to joules, with assurance from the settings menu itself that everything else is “totally accurate, trust me.”
Even though it’s a one-button-does-it-all clicker, I never felt like I was waiting around for hours to reach the next threshold. Progress was steady so long as I faithfully invested in power sources, which increase your power gain while idle and when clicking, though I admit that’s partly thanks to a key macro I setup to save myself from carpal tunnel. My first major goal was amassing enough power to create the escape pod in my Idea Lister. With it, I was able to propel myself down to the surface of the mysterious red planet like a prodigal potato farmer.
It was right around that time that I ran into a nasty bug: I toggled fullscreen mode on the application’s window and my game reloaded itself, somehow reverting me to the game state from when I opened it that morning eight hours earlier. Nevertheless, I powered through (pun bitterly intended) that setback and carried on raising my space potatoes with renewed vigor. Determined to catch back up, I temporarily changed my key macro to a toggle that could click faster than humanly possible, allowing me to reach the point of planetary contact in an hour. Although Spaceplan will continue generating power for a short time when you turn it off, a perk that can be extended via the Idea Lister, I wasn’t about to gamble with losing my progress again.
After finally landing, my Word Outputter regaled me with its thoughts on where we were and how to survive. Apparently, the Word Outputter enjoys light reading on the subject of space-time and has formed an amateur theory based on Stephen Hawking’s work. I won’t spoil it, but it involves a lot of potatoes. Conveniently, potatoes don’t spoil easily. Before long I was dropping Tater Towers, Spud Guns, and all other manner of play-on-potato equipment on and around the planet. By the time I reached the multi-billion joules of power mark, the planet had begun to look like something I could have rolled up in Katamari Damacy, surrounded by an EDM concert worth of strobe lights. Things only get stranger from there, as if potato-fueled space exploration weren’t outlandish enough.
My other constant companion, aside from the Word Outputter, is the game’s soundtrack. Typically in a game with ambient, repeated music, I’d have muted it by the second hour and turned on my own playlist. Many hours of idling later, I still haven’t given Spaceplan that treatment. It lists a “banging soundtrack” as a main feature on its Steam page, which I’d initially taken as a goofy overstatement. It isn’t. Spaceplan’s alternating chill and dance-y electronic beats have yet to get on my nerves.
I managed to complete Spaceplan with thirty hours total logged, about five of which were spent actively managing the game. It has more narrative than I’d expected from a clicker game, but not so much that it warrants being compared to games outside its genre. The irreverent, self-aware Word Outputter’s running commentary on my progress was easily the most amusing part of the game, along with the names for each new piece of potato technology that I discovered. While its tone isn’t unique in satirical sci-fi, it is quite novel for a clicker game. When the core task at hand is switching between clicking a button and ignoring the game altogether, a decent chuckle over a spud joke here and there is about the level of engagement I had anticipated.
Although I’m not sure how much competition there is in the oddly specific category of “narrative sci-fi clicker games”, Spaceplan certainly makes an argument for a new niche genre. Spaceplan didn’t didn't totally consume my life, and if I’d been playing casually, I may have spread it out over the course of a week, taking a short click-venture through space and time all thanks to a colossal misunderstanding of Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”.