In Space, no one can hear you rip off George Lucas
Stop me if you’ve heard this one; rebels fighting against an evil empire, young hero with no idea of his true parentage but soon to discover it may be linked to the enemy, ice planets, walkers and big planet destroying machines… Yes, Star Battalion’s story isn’t a million miles away from Star Wars, so much so that we hope George Lucas doesn’t have an iPhone.
Even if the story isn’t unique, the gameplay is, on the iPhone at least. While there are a couple of other Space Combat games, Star Pagga and Galaxy On Fire being the best, this game is all action. Most levels give you a primary and secondary objective to complete. Ground and air based enemies will require obliterating, large spacecraft need their defences crushing and occasionally you’ll need to find your way around a series of tunnels or buildings.
It’s set out like a big space opera, narrative takes place in between missions and during the action with radio chatter from your wingmen and your leader. This works well for the most part, though there are times when I needed to wait for someone to finish talking before I could get into the action and the game refused to let me blow up the enemy until they’d completely finished.
Vast open worlds greet you on each level, though it’s mostly an illusion and one of the wingmen will quickly reprimand you for straying outside of the area. Still, it’s an impressive sight when you get into space and dodge asteroids while fighting off enemy craft. One later level even has you ducking through tight tunnels and in to buildings to find the enemy’s secret weapon (a huge craft with a single eye that can destroy planets and is predictably called The Planet Eater).
Every level is well designed and well detailed, the level layouts are actually pretty varied and don’t succumb to the boring design found in some of the earlier Gameloft games. There are some pop-up issues on ground based levels with lots of buildings, but it’s mostly objects that are further away. Overall this is a graphically impressive game, particularly when you’re up against the larger battleships and smaller enemies are swarming around you. The now standard Retina support gives iPhone 4 and new iPod Touch owners something to smile about too.
Special mention should be made of the controls, they’re pretty much perfect. The usual virtual analogue stick sits on the left with buttons and cannons and missiles on the right are standard enough but they’ve never felt as good as they do here. Using the alternative methods (tilt and Gyroscope on iPhone 4) works equally well. Swiping up on the screen will see you flip 180 degrees, a useful option for avoiding craft in a dogfight and swiping from side to side will let you do a barrel roll (something not a million miles away from Star Fox games).
There isn’t just the single player game on offer, either. This is the first time that Gameloft has used Game Centre to host the multiplayer and it does show off the great matchmaking features on offer. Unfortunately, the game only has co-op options, a deathmatch mode is sorely lacking as is voice support. I found matches with strangers to be a pretty silent affair, far better to be working together with someone sat next to you so you can shout orders at them. The fact that multiplayer works so well makes it all the more disappointing that there are no vs modes in the game.
If you’re a fan of big Space Operas and fancy blowing a fleet of enemies out of the sky in a dogfight then Star Battalion should be right up your street. It may not be the longest game in the world but it’s certainly one of the most action packed and explosive games I’ve played in recent months and kept me entertained throughout.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 8
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