The different ways in which movies can be appreciated by people can be incredibly entertaining. Take Starship Troopers, for example. To some it's a wry, cutting comment on the military-industrial complex and it's place within (and effect upon) society. To others – your reviewer included – it's a popcorn flick with big gun fights, whizzy special effects and a Saturday matinee thrill.
Starship Troopers: Roughnecks, the new mobile phone game based on the movie that was in turn based on a novel, can't claim to be analysed on different levels like this. It's just rubbish. End of story.
Let us explain why though, because when we first heard about the game we were pretty excited. After all, it seemingly has all the key ingredients: big guns, scary monsters to shoot and a sci-fi universe in which flash space ships, corny storylines and argumentative commanding officers play a prominent part.
It all falls apart when, in the first few seconds of the first level, you realise that the game is less about running around, guns blazing, than it is standing firm and picking off targets with the minimum of ammo expended. That you can't move and fire at the same time – yes, you read that right – is a major handicap, and means that progress through the game's levels is erratic at best.
You end up having to flit between two modes – firing and scouting – which can be switched by pressing '5' or the centre of your handset's directional pad. When you fire, you do so by pressing in the direction you want to shoot. When you want to walk, you hit '5' and then carry on your way.
A move-stop-fire-move mechanic does work in certain games – turn-based strategy titles, for instance – but in something that's supposed (we assume) to recall the frantic, fast-paced action of a film like Starship Troopers, it's fatal to any chance of real enjoyment.
Mowing down bugs with your assault rifle – quite a mainstay of the movie, if memory services – is hampered by the way you have to play. Ammo's so limited that you'll literally be counting every bullet you fire to make sure you don't run out half way through the level when there aren't any reloads to pick up.
The levels in Starship Troopers: Roughnecks are equally deserving of criticism, being strung together as they are by the scantest of storylines, and featuring less variation between them than you'd find in the average ants' nest. Even the messages that pop up on screen to tell you about a new enemy or item you're about to come across are late, appearing more often than not after you've killed or picked up the object to which its referring.
It's a sorry state of affairs and, as good as the game looks and sounds, it's not enough to make it any less of a disappointment to play. Really, it's hard to think of any reason you'd want to splash your hard-earned cash on this. Unless you're the most ardent of kleptomaniac Starship Trooper fans, keep a rolled-up newspaper by your side and the windows closed.