In Vostok Inc., you’re the newly appointed CEO of an intergalactic company, and it’s your job to expand the business’s reach across the universe, slowly and surely acquiring real estate until you reach total galactic domination. The game is half twin-stick shooter and half capitalism simulator, combing to form 100% pure addictive .
Money Money Money
On the surface, Vostok Inc. looks pretty simple. You fly around a 2D solar system shooting at enemies as they try to shoot at you. Graphically it’s unassuming, leaning towards a minimal cartoonish look, and the story is an amusing, albeit straightforward, take on a global expansion comedy. You have an assistant named Jimmy who is an easy characterization of a 90s stockbroker, and he schemes with you and does all of the talking when the aliens all come knocking. The narrative is ultimately amusing enough to keep you engaged (it has alien corgis!) but basic enough to not demand your attention.
The game picks up quickly when you reach your first planet and are prompted to start buying farms, factories, shopping malls and any other building you can think of in an attempt to generate revenue. The more money you have, the better buildings you can buy, which will, in turn, increase the money you intake. The money is always coming in too, so you can leave the game running on the side, come back and have a significant deposit in your account. As your wealth increases, you can also upgrade the buildings to make them more efficient, causing your Chemical Plant to add 1.02 efficiency for every F.A.R.M. you have, for example.
Sci-Fi Dog Fights
When you’re sufficiently out of money or looking for a change of pace, you can set off to explore the solar system. Enemies randomly spawn as you explore, engaging you in space battles. Sometimes scouts will appear, and if they are not killed quickly enough, a locked screen battle will initiate, making it impossible to run from battle until all enemies are dealt with. Killing enemies, of course, generates more money allowing you to make money (or moolah as the game calls it) on top of what you’re raking in with your real estate. You can also pick up middle managers and executives in the forms of stranded astronauts who will increase productivity, provided you grab them before they expire.
The battle controls for Vostok Inc. are simple enough: you move with the left stick and shoot with the right. You can boost out of the way if things get sticky and that’s about it. You can power up your weapons once you start generating serious amounts of money, but outside of enemy patterns, that’s the only real variety that comes into play. The battles themselves are entertaining enough, but they don’t feel as dynamic as other twin-stick schmups out there.
Playing the game on the joy cons also made it somewhat difficult to shoot accurately, which proves pretty important in a twin-stick shooter. That’s a problem easily solved by using a pro controller though and ultimately a limitation of the hardware itself. Maybe one day, handhelds will be able to have accurate joysticks, but in the meantime, it’s not a huge enough hassle to diminish the enjoyment of the game.
Vostok Inc. has an otherwise simple, but perfectly satisfying gameplay loop. One moment, you’re completely engrossed in how fast you can generate income with your planetary expansion, the next you’re out in space killing aliens to pass time while you wait to reach 10 billion moolah so you can buy the next best income generating property. Rinse and repeat. It’s stupidly addicting and makes time disappear.
The price scaling for properties is well done too so that it’s not super easy to get to the next financial level but it’s achievable enough to leave you hungry for it. The scaling for ship modifications is weirdly high though, making it till about halfway into the game or later until you can buy some seemingly simple modifications like the ability to boost in all directions.
If you somehow manage to shake out its cycle and are craving variety, Vostok Inc. also has a variety of extras in the form of minigames. There’s an FPS, Tamagotchi style virtual pets, a Lumberjack arcade game and more. Even the pause screen itself is a mini-game that lets you remix the game’s music by adding in and removing layers at will. None of these are all that in-depth, but they add to the replayability and sheer fun that Vostok Inc. has to offer.
Vostok Inc. is one of the year’s most addicting games, seamlessly combining two genres into a beautifully executed sci-fi capitalism shooter. It’s not all that robust or complex, but the sheer thrills will get your inner money goblin going, and once that happens, there’s no coming back.