Satellite Repariman Review
Needs A Videogame Repairman
They say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but when you spend much of your time digging through Steam’s dung heap in search of gold nuggets, you do develop a certain baseline for what a game that could at all be worth anyone’s attention should look like. A lot of YouTubers make their money by screaming at terrible Steam games, and those games generally deserve the hate, but their anger always feels forced – I mean, at this point, you should be able to tell that the umpteenth FPS asset-flip on Steam is not going to be a great game.
Sadly, that vetting process only works one way. Satellite Repairman shows that, even when a game looks the part, technical issues and a clunky interface can drag a potential gem way, way down into the pile.
Don’t let looks fool you: more than anything, Satellite Repairman is a real-time strategy game. It’s a game about managing resources and preparing yourself for upcoming enemy attacks. You don’t get a top-down perspective or control units, but that’s just a matter of UI. The tasks you’re expected to accomplish fall very much within the confines of the RTS genre. In fact, the best description I can come up with for SR‘s gameplay is as a 2D version of the mission from Starcraft 1‘s Terran campaign where you need to survive for 30 minutes against Zerg attacks.
For those not as obsessed as me with ancient RTSes, Satellite Repairman is a side-scroller where you are tasked with defending your base from incoming missile attacks. The planets that serve as the setting for each mission are relatively small, allowing your character to circle around their surfaces relatively quickly, and a jetpack enables you to deploy the eponymous satellites into the atmosphere. Satellites are necessary to detect incoming missles, but are in and of themselves useless without being in the range of a comm tower, and those are in turn useless if no missile defense turret is around to intercept the incoming missiles.
These aren’t the only types of buildings in the game. Comm and missile defense towers, as well as the factories needed to create satellites and the modules they need to be fitted with, are built in a construction yard. There are also farm houses that produce food that replenishes your constantly-depleting health – yes, this game has survival elements for some reason – a research center where you can develop upgrades, and your HQ, which is the main building you must protect and where you also charge your jetpack.
If that sounds a little convoluted, you’re not alone. Satellite Repairman is immediately overwhelming in the sheer volume of things it expects you to remember. As soon as a level starts, you’ll find yourself scrambling to get to the construction yard and build some towers, while also remembering to build a factory, and remembering to queue up some satellites for production, and also making some modules, and then going around the planet to install towers, and flying up to install satellites, and wait did I forget the modules? Ah fuck this satellite is useless OH MY GOD EVERYTHING IS DEAD.
Even if you manage to wrap your head around Satellite Repairman‘s minutiae, doing what you know you need to do is no trivial matter. Movement is incredibly slow, especially when using the jetpack, and controls are finnicky and unreliable. In particular, docking into a satellite to fix it or install modules requires pressing a button at a very specific point on the satellite, making it not uncommon for you to hammer the button in an attempt to dock only to accidentally undock on your next button press.
If you manage to deal with those issues, there’s also the game-breaking UI bugs. You initially can carry around 4 items, a number that can be increased through research. Usually, walking by an item when your inventory is full will mean you’re just not able to pick it up, but sometimes the item will be picked up and put into an invisible slot in your inventory, making it impossible to use. Other times, even if your inventory has free slots, your item will be picked into an occupied slot, rendering the old item – whose icon will still appear superimposed on the new item – permanently unusable, and the inventory position thus permanently occupied. One time I even had to quit the game entirely because the UI became completely unresponsive.
“Satellite Repairman is immediately overwhelming in the sheer volume of things it expects you to remember“
Satellite Repairman is a pretty and original strategy game which had a lot of promise. Execution, however, is sorely lacking. If you have the stomach for its clunkiness, you might be able to get some fun out of it. However, with severe game breaking bugs and so much frustration to go for, I find it very hard to recommend under any circumstances.