Kickstarter has become the spawning ground for many new iOS titles. Frequently these little games are funded, and a year or two later, a spectacular or thoroughly forgettable game is revealed. Star Command is one such game, and garnered a lot of support from the Kickstarter community. It set down a lofty goal and promised to deliver on some interstellar strategy action. So does this little Kickstarter game come through with the fun, or will it be consigned to the deleted data ether? Let’s have a look.
Star Command is a starship management adventure game. You pick out your character and your ship, and are sent off on a bunch of missions. You have the ability to name the ship and your captain whatever you like (I chose Serenity and Malcolm Reynolds). Then you can hire some crew to work on your humble little ship and help protect it while you’re out on missions. The universe is well thought out, and the bits of readable dialogue with other ships and alien races are smart and enjoyable. However, there are a few nagging things that keep Star Command from becoming the great game it could be.
The developers of Star Command went retro with all of their thrusters. There are pixelated graphics galore. Everything looks like it was thrown up on by an Amiga. This isn’t an ironic usage of the graphics; it's a full on homage. For the most part, it works. You forget that you’re playing a brand new game, and think you’ve been transported through space and time to the old days of gaming. Where the graphics don’t work are when you’re presented with a combination of hand drawn backgrounds and pixelated characters. It creates a sort of dissonance that isn’t so easy on the eyes and can pull you right out of the game. It would be better if they had picked one and stuck to that aesthetic.
The gameplay of Star Command can get confusing very easily. The tutorial does a somewhat adequate job of explaining things, but it doesn’t go into enough depth before throwing you out to the interstellar angry dogs. In a game that can become quite complex, it would be nice to have a bit more explained to us. Frequently I found myself with a new mini-game used to fire weapons and had no idea what I should be doing. There was no explanation; just a bunch of random symbols on the screen, and my fingers frantically tapping.
It takes a bit of time to get used to Star Command. If you’re looking for a quick game to play while on the toilet, then this isn’t the game. That is unless you want to spend an hour in the bathroom. At times, Star Command can be painfully slow. The recharge times on your weapons can take an eternity, and you can quickly get bored while waiting for something to become available again. The micromanagement aspect of the game can become tedious in the beginning when you don’t have much to do. You end up spending a bit more time sitting around rather than playing.
Star Command really comes into its own a few missions in after you’ve stocked up on crew members and created enough rooms on your ship. Rather than relying on strategy to work your way through missions, you find yourself playing problem solver when aliens have breached your hull and are roaming the halls gunning down your medical technicians. It can get quite frantic at times, and this is where the real fun in Star Command lies. Also, the score it top notch. It really helps to suck you into the game, although the clear orchestration clashes a bit with the retro graphics.
All in all, Star Command is a game that will divide people. It is a game that you’ll either love or hate. If you like to micromanage a game and enjoy a more hands-off approach to gaming, then you’ll probably enjoy Star Command. If you prefer a more tactile and immediate feel to your gaming, then you might want to pass on this title. While the concept and execution are very unique, it won’t really appeal to everyone and it has enough faults that might make exploring the galaxy a bit frustrating.