Judging by the new trailer for Heat Signature, two things are essential in a Tom Francis game – manipulation of interconnected systems and comical physics. Gunpoint’s infiltration often involved tapping into electrical systems and adopting a smart tactical overview, but usually ended with trouser-propulsion and instinctive defenestration. Heat Signature’s procedural spaceships provide similarly fertile ground for both forward planning and farce. The video shows two missions in full but really comes into its own when Tom decides to hijack a ship for no good reason, plotting a route to the cockpit and isolating the crew by sealing doors. Once he has the helm, explosions occur.
As Tom says at the beginning of the video, space is looking far more seductive than it was last time we checked in with the game. The new art is the work of John Roberts, who was also behind the graphics in Gunpoint.
There are many things to admire in this video. The sight of crew members sliding across rooms after being struck by a wrench will stay with me for a long time and the drifting, blood-hose that the player becomes when lobbed out of an airlock is a thing of slapstick joy. Despite the vague intimations of a Hotline Miami-esque massacre when the guards rush toward the player’s position, the tone is always silly rather than sinister, and Tom’s commentary reflects that. It’s lovely to hear a designer chuckling while exploring their own game and Heat Signature looks like it will offer improvised comedy comparable to Space Station 13. Faster and tighter, but seemingly drawn from similar thought processes – what happens when a chain reaction of potentially disastrous events unfold. In space.
You can sign up for testing right now, should you wish to create your own space catastrophe.