REVIEW: ‘Space Gladiators’ Is Easy To Start, Hard To Master (XSX)

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Space Gladiators is a simple 2D roguelike from developer Blobfish and publisher Seaven Studio with a big “easy to play, hard to master” attitude. Playing as one of several silly blob-ish creatures, you must fight your way through myriad rooms of larger, more dangerous blob-ish creatures to ascend and escape a prison planet. Plenty of items and upgrades help you along the way, if you choose to take them, but the difficulty curve is sharp as enemies and obstacles become harder to defeat and avoid.

Space Gladiators thrives in its simplicity. You pick it up and go instantly. There’s no overworld or backstory to uncover. Hit go, jump into the game, and get to fighting. The mechanics are exceptionally simple too, at least on the surface. You have a basic attack you can use forward, up and down, and slots for a few kinds of pickups, including offensive, defensive, pets, dolls, and infinite passives. Attack pickups might add a second attack you can use at the cost of energy and others could add additional passive damage, but otherwise, the combat is as straightforward as that. Traversal is also important, because many rooms are filled with spikey hazards, so your double jump, wall jump, and dash will be essential for dodging trouble too.

This is actually the trickier and more rewarding part of gameplay. Anybody can hack and slash, but learning to master the perfectly timed dash through an enemy or its attack without bumping into hazards, which cannot be dodged through is essential to long runs. Every room in Space Gladiators is revealed by a map as you go along with an icon indicating whether it holds enemies, traps, bosses, rewards, or shops and what difficulty each room will possess, so you can plan your path out accordingly. If you want more coins to buy better items at shops or you want to avoid harder fights, you can choose your path through each level accordingly. I appreciate being able to plan in advance rather than blindly choosing pathways and getting lucky or unlucky accordingly.

Space Gladiators

But even a well-planned path will present its challenges rather quickly. The items you collect throughout the game are still random, some more useful than others and many with costs to their rewards. While the basic mechanics of attacking and traversal are simple, the game has a number of statistics including movement speed, attack speed, jump height, vampirism, technology, and a host of others that increase and decrease with every item or passive you pick up. These allow for somewhat more distinct builds for different approaches to gameplay, although there aren’t a vast number of items ultimately, and the difference that some of these statistics make often feels marginal, so I don’t know how much they ultimately factor into success or not.

The bigger influence on your success run to run is really based on which characters you play as. You unlock more characters, as well as items, as you progress further in the game. Each character is labeled by difficulty level and possesses different starting stats. Some have higher starting HP and other stats to make for easier runs while others have weak starting builds. Every character does gain XP after each run, slowly leveling up and unlocking various stat boosts for future runs. The gameplay is drastically different across characters, not because they play any differently mechanically, but because they have such different starting builds. It’s a much bigger difference than items create during a run and is a great way to mix up tactics as well as difficulty, beyond self-imposed challenges the game offers rewards for completing like no-hit boss fights and speedruns.

Space Gladiators is the epitome of simple yet satisfying. It’s easy to get going but very hard to master with its rapidly increasing difficulty and plethora of difficulty options to mix things up.

Space Gladiators is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.

Space Gladiators
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10


Space Gladiators is the epitome of simple yet satisfying. It’s easy to get going but very hard to master with its rapidly increasing difficulty and plethora of difficulty options to mix things up.

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