Review – Kerbal Space Program

Ground control to Major Tom.
Ground control to Major Tom.
Take your protein pills
and put your helmet on.

Lately I’ve been playing a bit of an independent game called Kerbal Space Program. The game is a spaceflight simulator in which you design a rocket, put it out on the pad, launch it and attempt to get it into space and successfully return it to Kearth.

The game starts in the vertical assembly building where you build your rocket from a series of predefined components. You can choose from a variety of solid and liquid fueled rockets, fuel tanks and motors as well as structural components like stage connectors and stabilizers. You put together one or more stages of the rocket then put the capsule containing your Kerbals, the inhabitants of the planet, on top. Then it’s off to the launch pad.

There you can fire off the first stage of the rocket and see if it lifts off or if it simply falls over and explodes. Once off the ground you are responsible for controlling the rocket, jettisoning stages as they burn out and adjusting its pitch, roll and yaw and the thrust of the liquid fueled engines in an attempt to successfully gain altitude and get into orbit. Once there (assuming you managed to make it) you can burn your engines again to cause the capsule to re-enter the atmosphere and descend by parachute to a safe landing.

The game is harder than it looks. It is easily possible to design a rocket that can’t lift its own weight and even easier to design one that breaks apart under thrust, goes out of control and crashes or simply explodes on the pad. Assuming you do get into space you may find your Kerbals trapped in orbit without enough fuel to land again or traveling so fast they leave Kearth forever.

The game is currently still under development and the developers have major plans for it. Right now there isn’t much to do with the game except launch and recover rockets but future releases will include things like missions to launch or recover satellites or to rendezvous with space stations. They also plan to expand the types of vehicles available to include things like the space shuttle or other, more esoteric designs. In the meantime, a thriving mod community has released a number of add-ons which provide a huge number of new components for your rockets.

If you are interested in space sims or just want to watch some rockets blow up, then head over to Kerbal Space Program and try it out. The Kerbals are depending on you.

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