There haven’t been any co-op experiences that have been as fun as Heavenly Bodies on the PS5. Other platforms are available. Multiplayer games can be dependent on the company, but irrespective of that, this is a well-designed game that is enormous fun. Disclaimer: patience is advised.
You play a cosmonaut assigned to 1970s styled space stations. Instead of hurtling into the sun, the objectives are a little mediocre in comparison: plugging in cables, bypassing airlocks and repositioning satellites, but eventually building the latter as if it were from a Meccano set. However, gravity is a luxury in space – you can’t skip along a corridor and just press a button. It’s far more complex than that.
If you want an explanation of how gravity works in Heavenly Bodies, look up Olivia Newton-John. The inventor of the apple makes a cameo of sorts as one of the controller configurations pays tribute to them, making the gravitational pull far more realistic.
You’ll move your left arm with the left stick, and L2 will grab. This is mirrored on the right, with X serving as an action button. The shoulder buttons control the legs, propelling the characters forward. Square is used to reposition the station, a.k.a. viewpoint, but this tended to be disorientating and was banned during our playthroughs.
To open an airlock, you pull on a lever, which is a challenge in itself. On the first stage, the lever snapped. After much floating and “Now what do we do?”, it transpired that we had to squeeze a crowbar (or tennis racket) through the door and wiggle to pry it open. Irrespective of how impossible this felt at the time, I can’t articulate how satisfying it was. It was like lockpicking with a spoon.
Other than a ring binder that looks like an IKEA assembly sheet, it’s sometimes tricky to decipher what’s expected of you. It took us around 45 minutes to do the first level, but we had zero regrets. Heavenly Bodies has genuinely been the most fun I’ve ever had when playing a co-op game with my little girl (we also did Tools Up! together, and she was indispensable). We genuinely were in hysterics when playing.
The same can’t be said about the single-player mode – initially anti-climatic compared to the co-op. That dissipated when it became clear I could complete objectives without someone else in the way. That doesn’t mean it’s easier overall, as there were moments of bearing my teeth like a rabid dog as my cosmonaut floated past levers, drifting through space while drilling in an asteroid belt, or the tribulations of pushing the equivalent of a bus through a corridor.
With all that said, Heavenly Bodies gameplay is ingenious. Yes, it’s infuriating when helplessly floating in space or having to backtrack to locate an object that isn’t needed in the first place, but there’s also a great deal of satisfaction when you are successful. There’s no fanfare on the game’s part – it’s all a little indifferent. After all, it’s your job. Still, I just built a satellite with robot arms – where’s my bloody confetti?!!?
If wrestling with physics isn’t enough, challenges unlock once the main objective is completed. If you’re a real masochist, there’s a speedrun option. No doubt there’ll be deviants finishing the game in the time it took us to complete that first mission. Everyone sane can safely play the game without a timer.
Heavenly Bodies is a good solo experience, though it’s the co-op element that really shines. As with most co-op and multiplayer experiences, a lot rides on who you play with. While 2pt Interactive gets the credit for constructing this digital playground, it was my little girl who made it such a memorable time.
Whether you have kids you can guilt trip into playing this with you, partners or friends; they’ll be the deciding factor on how much you’ll get out of the co-op mode. The erratic behaviour of your cosmonauts and clever setpieces are superb, so I have to recommend it on that alone. Playing solo is also good, but it’s so much better when someone can steady you and keep you sane. Just don’t take it too seriously.