What if an idle clicker tasked you with more than bashing buttons and twiddling your thumbs? Vostok Inc is the answer: a galactic greed-‘em-up that pads profiteering with twin-stick shooting. This kitsch clash of genres comes care of The Hungry Horde developer Nosebleed Interactive, and shares its penchant for offbeat bonus content. Indeed, in order to further your intergalactic racket you’ll find yourself feeding executives via Tamagotchi-inspired minigames – and also, y’know, remixing songs.
It sounds peculiar on paper, but the package comes together in a strangely satisfying way. Anyone who’s played AdVenture Capitalist or Clicker Heroes will know what a drain they can become on basic human function, but beyond the compulsion is a lot of downtime. Clickers, by their very design, are all about waiting for that next major milestone, and by building competent gameplay mechanics on top, this title actually gives you something to pass the time.
The clicker aspect is fairly straightforward: you fly to a planet in one of the several solar systems included in the game and begin building on it. The more structures you place, the more expensive they’ll be to erect – but increasing your construction footprint will boost your income per second, thus providing you with the funds to speculate further. It’s bog-standard stuff, but nice animations make the assembly aspect enjoyable, and unlocks are tied to other systems in the game.
Which provides a nice segue for everything else that the package has to offer. When you’re not colonising a faraway comet, you’ll be blasting asteroids – or intergalactic species. The twin-stick shooting plays a little like, say, Geometry Wars – although the floaty physics system is perhaps more akin to the lesser known PixelJunk Shooter. Combat occurs organically as you explore, and on occasion the screen will be locked, forcing you to engage rather than escape.
When you’ve garnered enough moolah, you’ll unlock boss battles which aren’t all that exciting but give you something to work towards. And that’s just the icing on this complicated cake mix of content: there are races for you to tackle, music to remix, weapons to formulate, and managers to organise. Executives will need to be fed and bribed in order to increase your money making potential, using items that you collect from the carcasses of your foes.
The key thing is that whatever aspect of the game you engage with, you’ll still be earning funds from your colonised planets. And this all means that when you get back to the clicker bit, you’ll have plenty of money to spend – and thus the cycle starts anew. There are minigames ranging from a Flappy Bird clone to a monochrome first-person shooter, and the title has over 500 in-game achievements for you to complete, meaning it’s rewarding you for virtually everything you do.
There’s something tragic about the way the game taps in to your brain’s not-so-secret desperation for dopamine drops, but goodness gracious does it feel good. The fact is that once you properly get started, it can be almost impossible to put this title down; there’s always something to work towards, and while you will hit brick walls like in other clickers, here the release just gives you something else to do. You can’t make money while you’re not playing, but we genuinely don’t believe the developer expects you to stop.
A mental genre mash-up that fuses the best of idle clickers with actual gameplay mechanics, Vostok Inc probably should come with a health warning. This may not be the best twin-stick shooter you’ll play on the PlayStation 4, but by mixing and matching mechanics from different titles it unleashes a beast that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Play responsibly – but most importantly, play.