Do you really like diagnosing tech support issues and failed hardware components while your life is on the line? Do you also really, really enjoy the 1995 Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13? Because I enjoy both and developer William Burke has pretty much tailor-made Tin Can specifically for me.
Tin Can is a survival simulation game, but instead of placing you in a vast open world it puts you in a very small one. There has been some kind of disaster during your space travel, and you find yourself in a hopelessly outdated “Medusa Class escape pod” with “nothing more than your skills and limited knowledge of technology.” You quickly have to break out the pod’s manual, which exists both in-game and out of game, in order to learn how the pod’s systems work—like figuring how to change out the storage tanks on the atmosphere regulation for fresh ones from the CO2 scrubber.
Then stuff starts breaking. You start cannibalizing parts from one system to another just to stay alive. The reactor core temperature dips and you cut the lights to save power, then the computers, so you don’t even notice when the atmosphere processor breaks down. Then you’re dead, and you start all over again. It’s a glorious representation of the heart-gripping terror that accompanies any technical malfunction in space.
“I spent the last ten years dreaming about a space game that would have a more micro approach,” Burke told PC Gamer in an email exchange, “Something that would make me feel like I do when I watch the movie Apollo 13. We didn’t want to have the player press a key to fix an entire system, but rather open panels and start taking parts apart. This is what we are going for.”
Tin Can released into Early Access on October 29th after a year and a half of development and has had positive reception from players so far. It’s fairly basic at the moment: Though understanding the systems and their parts is complex, the only goal is to survive as long as you can on either Normal or Hardcore difficulty. For reference, it usually takes me about 20 minutes to die.
“Now that the concept is set, we are hoping to have enough success to push it further,” said Burke, “Have people join me to build a bigger team, and add major updates every month.” Coming updates will bring more to Tin Can, like a way to get rescued and a tutorial. (It’s easiest to just learn the game by reading the manual and going into the immortal Sandbox mode.)