It’s already impressive (or a sad indictment of humanity) that something as maddeningly simplistic as a clicker game can spur you to play countless hours. It feels like the limited nature of the genre breeds creativity in other areas, and that digs its hooks into poor unsuspecting you.
With Vostok Inc. the union of clicker and twin stick shooter has birthed something that inspires that compulsive need to watch rewarding numbers rise as you tap away, and keeps you on your toes with its twitch-shooting. A union of distant goals and immediate action that threatens to chip away at your free time.
Vostok Inc first sees you play as an insignificant spaceship scouring the vast blackness of 2D space. You begin in our very own solar system, following the orbit of the planets as they sail lazily through the expanses of space. You’re not defenseless, thankfully, you’ve got a shield and multi-purpose lasers. Well, they technically are in the sense that shooting it solves all problems.
Everything you shoot in space release lucrative golden nuggets dubbed ‘moolah’ by the 80’s space yuppy who guides you (yes, a space yuppy). That moolah is the key to everything in Vostok Inc because in true 80’s wall street fashion, money makes the world (solar system) go round, and there’s lots of opportunity to keep it spinning on the surface of the planets.
In comes the clicker aspect of Vostok Inc. You buy a mine and the planet will start to produce revenue. Then you build another, and another, and watch the moolah build. Once you’ve got a few of those down then you better build a farm, a shopping mall, or any number of lucrative money-making businesses to rake in that sweet, sweet moolah.
If you want to further maximise that profit line, you can upgrade these buildings further As you begin to expand your galactic empire you can add satellites that allows you to collect moolah even when you’re off plundering another planet for profit. As everything grows broader in scope, the planets literally align to allow you to chain them together to form a great big production line towards your metaphorical Scrooge McDuck style money vault at the heart of it.
This seems like an overly simplistic concept on paper, and the downside of any clicker is in that simplicity’s execution. Of course Vostok Inc is not just a simple. Sure there is an element that sees you tap a button or two, spending money to make even more money, but it doesn’t exist in that mindless void of watching numbers rising.
The twin-stick shooter side, with your ship barrelling through laser fire of the goons of a criminal family and dispatching them with reaction-based dexterity, compliments the clicker side magnificently. By never focusing on one aspect, the game remains interesting as well as mindlessly compelling, and the daft ribbing of 80’s greed is good culture only seasons this unconventional broth.
From humble beginnings sprouts a great celestial money tree, its branches snaking out across the universe. In an impressive feat, Vostok Inc. does not lose its focus as your wealth grows to disproportionate levels, rather it keeps pace by offering fresh challenge and fresh methods for keeping track of your revenue.
The profits don’t all have to be reinvested into planet exploitation, you can boost your ship with an upgraded shield and boost meter. Perhaps you fancy some new and exciting firepower to help you even the odds against the Space Mafia (don’t call them that to their face though, they’re not fond of being called criminals). Or you can invest in any of the numerous Mother Base gadgets to seek out new opportunities for earning even more of that chunky, golden moolah (and why not? It’s the point after all).
Just as you feel confident, and you’re raking in moolah at an unrealistic, yet satisfying, rate across all the planets, you’ll be presented with a threat/obstacle to test your mettle. By earning the required amount of cash, you can tackle the solar system’s boss fight. Beat that, and your eyes are opened to worlds beyond our own, and just as you got comfortable dealing with the Space Mafia and this solar system, you discover each new solar system presents new threats and a new boss.
Beating that first boss and uncovering the true scope of Vostok Inc. It ploughs a familiar furrow if you’ve ever played the likes of Rogue Legacy or Spelunky. Marrying two game styles and drip-feeding you surprising new things between the meat of a sturdy gameplay loop.
It has its faults. It may not hold quite the same allure for anyone expecting a straight shooter, and the twitch-based shooting can feel particularly sluggish during the opening hours, often seeing you lose winnable fights and hemorrhaging half you cash in one fell swoop (which is utterly devastating despite how inconsequential it is in hindsight).
There are plenty of better examples of a twin-stick shooter on PS4 if I’m honest, but for the most part, it works, and its symbiotic relationship with the clicker side of the package makes for a unique and compelling whole. Though the shooting breaks up the mundanity of the planet moolah maintenance, there’s a chance that it might be a bit too much of it for some. Yet I still believe you can go into Vostok Inc. not being particularly enamoured with either genre and still become utterly engrossed in it.