Sunday, February 10, 2008

Interstellar Storm

Sometimes a game makes it too easy for me. Take Interstellar Storm, for example - a game so badly designed and frustrating to play that reviewing it here would just be cruel.

But I'll do it anyway.

At least the title is apt. Using your mouse, you guide your spaceship through a seemingly endless asteroid belt, blowing away any asteroid that get in your way as well as the odd alien spaceship that appear impervious to giant lumps of rock but which quickly disintegrate under the power of your dinky little lasers.

At first I thought it was actually a pretty good game. The concept is simple and, unless you're voting for a President, simple is good. But Interstellar Storm is actually less advanced than Asteroid, the game from which it no doubt takes most of its influence. The 70's classic allowed for 360° of rock blasting goodness, while Interstellar Storm is just a vertically scrolling space-themed shooter.

Power-ups come along at regular intervals, such as the shield, which is handy if you don't like your spaceship getting destroyed by speeding meteorites. But the one power-up I would have appreciated was rapid fire. Each shot requires a press of the left mouse button, which would be OK if you didn't have to fire constantly.

So this is what happens if you get hit by something - you release a blue circle. The alien ship releases a grey circle when it gets hit. Most vehicles explode upon crashing into giant rocks, but this is space, where circles power all engines. Oh, what an epic vision of the future this game provides us with!

So yeah, the animation sucks. And each level follows the same pattern - shoot some asteroids, kill an alien, repeat. I hadn't even realised that I'd played all the way through Level 1 until I was killed.

The good news is that despite the repetitive nature of the game, you won't get bored. The bad news is, this is because you won't last more than forty seconds. That's right - final scores of 89 are the norm. The best I've ever done is 198, which would have put me on the top ten of the Hallpass website. And considering the Hallpass Top Ten lists are populated by online gaming wizards who I both fear and envy, that's really saying something. So, to keep the player interested and make sure they keep coming back for more, there needs to be a few cool extras to entice them, right? Well, in Interstellar Storm, you can also fly a green spaceship:

And a red spaceship:

And that is all. And no, there is no discernible difference between the three ships other than their colour. Which is a great metaphor for race and skin colour - showing how we, like these spaceships, are all the same inside - but absolutely pointless in a game.

That I've managed to ramble on for this length of time about a game that could be rounded up and ripped apart in about two sentences is a minor miracle, somewhat akin to the fact that some people actually enjoy this game. That some people even think it's cool. But then, some people thought Hitler was cool, and look where that got us. And though I hate to associate a crappy game with a megalomaniacal racist dwarf, offending untold numbers of people in the process, I guess I already have and we're all just going to have to live with it.

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