Game Reviews

Star Battalion

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Star Battalion

When you look at the stars in the night sky, how do you feel? Fascinated? Awed? Overwhelmed by the endless possibilities and natural phenomenon the universe might hold? Just think: anything could exist out there. Doesn’t that make your imagination run wild?

If so, you should work for Gameloft - it's clearly in need of some imagination. Star Battalion is a rather dull rehash of the Star Wars saga, which was our primary criticism when we reviewed it on iPhone and iPod touch.

Thankfully, the secondary criticism – that the controls were awful too – appears to have been almost completely fixed.

Stars in their eyes

Nothing has changed in terms of the storyline or voice acting. It’s still as drab as a washing line of grey clothes on a rainy day. There’s a rebellion (the Resistance), there’s an empire (the Royalists), and there’s a plucky mercenary (Han Solo meets Captain Reynolds).

Gameloft even goes so far as to have the main character be the unwitting 'son' (or in this case a 'super soldier' clone) of the uber-antagonist, a genetically flawed and constantly ill evil old emperor.

Why the bad guys went to the trouble of trying to create super-soldier clones from such a sickness-prone person is unclear.

However, it's possible to actually enjoy the Xperia Play version, if you can manage to turn your brain off.

The accelerometer and on-screen buttons have obviously been ousted in favour of the PlayStation controls, and it’s the best outcome Gameloft could have hoped for, even if it does still contain a glitch here and there.

Fly boy

You can use the touchpads to control yaw and pitch, which is a bit tricky. It’s much better to use the D-pad, with movement feeling a lot tighter.

Square and Triangle control the throttle, while X and Circle control laser fire and missiles respectively. There’s a nice feature that allows you to hold down Circle and paint several targets, then release to launch a number of missiles at the same time.

Admittedly, whenever you paint a target that subsequently goes off screen your missile gets 'stuck' and won’t fire until you press the button again, meaning it launches at nothing in particular, wasting your ammo. When executed perfectly,though, the missile combat is generally satisfying.

Time and space

Dogfights require a lot of ducking and weaving. The L and R triggers control barrel rolls left or right. When pressed together they're supposed to execute a 180 degree turn.

Sadly, your timing has to be absolutely meticulous – a millisecond between button presses and the manoeuvre is bungled. In the more furious firefights of the game this can get pretty frustrating.

There's an alternative method of pulling this move off - you can swipe your finger up or down across the centre of the screen. But even this is sometimes unresponsive, which is a real irritation when it’s the only reliable way to dodge incoming missile fire.

If you fancy a real wingman at your back (instead of the toothless AI companions) co-operative play is still there and still roughly doing its job. However, it can be difficult to connect to others at times and the lag makes this mode sort of a side-note.

Despite all these problems, Gameloft has at least addressed a lot of the control issues that plagued the iPhone release. Thanks to the Xperia Play’s physical controls, it's a far more enjoyable game than it was first time around.

Star Battalion

It may still pack a lousy plot, but the physical controls help propel Star Battalion into orbit