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Eric Campbell

Retro Review: Starscape

Rating: 6 votes, 5.00 average.

2004 was a big year for video games, what with the brain-melting wickedness of Half-Life 2 and the highly-anticipated Doom 3 hitting shelves. These two titans would change the way FPS was played for all time and caused players around the world to neglect the basic necessities of biological upkeep such as brushing their teeth and leaving their PCs long enough to buy themselves something more nourishing than a 2-liter of Mountain Dew. Nintendo released the DS, the Sims 2 caused millions to forget that they were forsaking their lives to play a game about having a life and Acclaim gently put a gun to its head and pulled the Chapter 11 trigger (never mind that Halo 2 had also just been released, as well as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 and…well you probably get the idea). So it’s a miracle that a game like Starscape, developed by the unknown company Moonpod, was even played by more than three people. But I suppose that is the genius of Shareware, because more than three people played it. A lot more.

Starscape is a 2D game in which you are zipping around the cosmos blowing everything up. You’re the last fighter pilot of a stranded space station that has been pulled into an alternate dimension after aliens interfere with some weird experiment that was so dangerous it had to be conducted 5 light years from any living thing in order to prevent premature hair loss to over half the galaxy. I made that last part up but I think it works and is a more merciful solution than enduring the reading through the opening sequence of the game, which seemed to go into far too much detail for a simple 2D shooter. The cinematic animations and cut scenes seem like they were done by someone who spent a single night reading Flash Animation for Dummies. But in the end? To be honest? I actually found all this to be a part of the game's charm. And sure, the plot seemed…well, hokey. Still, it all reminded me of the late days of 90’s PC gaming, when games had a “why not?” attitude when it came to plot and story. Take Quest for Glory, for example. To this day I have no clue where the hell my character came from or why the hell he gave a crap about anything (inside tip: you ever get a chance to play this game, drink the Dragons Breath in the tavern). Or Another World (aka Out of this World on Super Nintendo), which didn’t explain itself at all and was all the more amazing for it. So sure, why not? You were on this space station and it gets zipped away to another dimension. Game on!

As you might expect from a 2D space shooter, the game is pretty simple. Fly around, annihilate enemies, blow up asteroids for resources to upgrade your space station as well as your space fighter. The upgrading itself is a little more complex than simply buying items as you have to allocate limited man power into research and development. I found it to be a little more complex than a game like this needed, but it did add an element of carrot-on-a-stick achievement seeking that made it addictive and fun to play.

As for the hokey plot, some cut scenes and missions do begin to offer some insight into the story arc of the game so at least there is progression in that regard. I have a feeling eventually it would have revealed who was behind all these dimension-jumping shenanigans. But where the game really won the day was its game play. There is something gratifying about rocketing through a slightly pixelated space, bank to the right during a thruster drift and blasting the crap out of baddies. It’s just another example of why simple games can sometimes be the best.

Predictably, simple games such as this usually come with some kind of epic score or techno soundtrack (usually to buck up a player who is engaged in a game that’s only slightly more complicated than tic-tac-toe, in my opinion…hence all the pinball video games out there with a soundtrack that would make Moby weep). This game isn’t any different and damn it all, it does make the game more fun to play.

I came to this title with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely worth a play. Makes me curious what else Moonpod has got up its Indie sleeves.

I give it 3 out of 5 chunks of space debris (Good).

Eric Campbell
Contributing Writer

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Updated 20-09-10 at 04:46 by Eric Campbell



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