I expected a snack and got a three course meal.
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Starship Patrol could be more surprising. A simple looking DS-ware game that punches well above its weight in delivering a finely balanced, exquisitely present strategy space combat game.
From the start screen Starship Patrol (Starship Defense in the states) initially give the impression that this little downloadable title from Nintendo / Q-Games for the DSi was a run-of-mill generic space blaster. Thankfully though, it's not that at all.
Instead it's a real time strategic space blaster and it is simply amazing. The aim of the game is to defend your massive (and variously shaped) Starships from marauding attacking aliens. You have different weapons and traps to use - each with specific pros and cons and each designed to work well against certain types of enemies.
Starship Patrol is played out in real time so you often need to think fast and act fast. It's not ridiculously fast, just fast enough to keep you thinking.
Each level displays the different waves of attacking enemies on the top screen. This enables you to set up your initial defence against them, each attack waves also shows you their path before they attack, giving you the heads up.
Each weapon or trap requires points to build and you have a starting allowance, you also gain point from destroying attacker thus help building up your defence throughout the level.
Although this was downloaded to my son's DSi it soon became clear he was really taken by it. I think there simply wasn't action enough for him - thankfully though this allowed me to delve deeper and complete the game.
I can see why he struggled a little, Starship Patrol does however have a steep learning curve and the levels do get tricky pretty quickly. But boy, is it addictive (ed: yes?).
Getting a good score on a level is ok, but I soon realised I could get a Perfect and headed back to give each level another go. I did this again and again until I had perfect on each. And not at any point did it feel repetitive or boring. In short I played it and continue to do so a lot.
This was all something of a surprise though, why hasn't more of a fuss been made about it? Sure it's not the most amazing game graphically (although I am fond of it's retro-style graph paper graphics), but the music and game play are excellent.
It's the first downloadable DSi-ware game which made me think, "OK you can get some good little games here" and it made me want to try more. I know this little sleeper hit only has 30 levels, but each of these are so well made they warrant multiple plays.
For those of you who like a bit of real time strategy, this game is perfect. I have been frustrated, annoyed and defeated by several of the levels on Starship Patrol, but never once disappointed.
[In ending I feel I should offer an apology. Not likely to you dear reader, but to those I went on holiday with recently. I am sorry I brought this game and sorry you didn't see very much of me not buried nose deep in space campaign.]
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