Fueled Up: A familiar design that doesn't skimp on chaos and fun
We've played a bunch of Fireline Games party game and have some thoughts.
For a while, Overcooked and Overcooked-clones were all the rage, as gamers became infatuated with couch co-op and the sorts of hectic gameplay that this style of titles offered up. But then a global pandemic hit and all of a sudden games that excelled because of their local co-op nature became less of a commodity. Fortunately, it looks like that era of social distancing has come to an end, at least in a lot of places around the world, and with that being the case, I've been keeping an eye on an interesting chaotic co-op game that could ring in the return of couch co-op. That very title is Fueled Up, and I've had the chance to check it out ahead of its launch later this year.
To be clear, if you've played Overcooked or anything similar before, you'll already understand the general premise of this game, even if the mechanics themselves are different. The idea of Fueled Up is to keep a spaceship running for a specific amount of time, to earn stars and to ensure that you remain out the squishy grasps of the evil space octopus that is hunting you. Yes, the concept is a bit odd, but it can really be boiled down to: an evil space octopus has come from another dimension and is wrecking ships, and it's your duty to rescue damaged ships and escape with them before the octopus finishes them off.
As for what Fueled Up asks of the player, this includes having to take crystals to a fuel refining station to be able to manufacture fuel cells that will keep the engines running, as well as having to patch up hull damage, put out fires, ensure that airlocks are kept properly powered up (else they will open and suck you into the cold void of space), and of course do all of this while navigating doors that will only open when another player stands on a pressure pad for example, and so on. But, if that somehow seems like too easy a challenge for you, there are also a whole batch of other hazards that will throw a spanner in the works, including meteor showers that wreck the ship's hull, wormholes that throw everything into disarray, and space squids (essentially the octopus' minions) who will latch onto your vessel and make your life evermore difficult.
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While the finer details are unique to Fueled Up, you can see the similarities that it shares with other co-op games of a familiar design. You have to work together to navigate the challenges of each level, whilst also overcoming the level design, which is usually fraught with hazards itself, such as flowing rivers of dangerous purple goo that will consume any player or object that falls into it.
To add to this, each level isn't specifically about just keeping the ship running for a specific time. Rather there are optional objectives to tackle as well, most of which require a little extra bit of communication and teamwork to get the job done. This could be keeping the ship's hull at above 50% health, meaning you have to keep patching up holes every time they are made, or rather could be down to not being pulled out of an airlock, which means you need a steady rotation of power cells being placed in the air locks to keep them from opening up. I will say, from what I've seen, these extra challenges are more for teams that have a lot of cohesion, as attempting to do this without that level of cooperation will be very tough.
And speaking of teamwork and cohesion, it should be noted that while Fueled Up is realistically designed to be played with other players, you can experience the game alone, as it will instead put you into a level with two characters that can switch between by pressing a button. It's an interesting feature, but does make life more challenging, as it means one character is often still and unused, while another moves to stand on a pressure plate for example.
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But all in all, what I've seen so far in Fueled Up does show me that this is a very entertaining game. Yes, it has its fair share of familiar features, but that doesn't change the fact that you will be shouting at your friends in no time at all, while you stress over managing the many systems that are falling apart on a high-tech spacecraft. If you're looking for a couch co-op title to spend an evening playing, Fueled Up is shaping up to be a great prospect.