The Battlestar Galactica remake is just made for games, with its compelling jump-cutty, eerily quiet space combat and signature ships. Fortunately, people have done so, for free and very well indeed. There’s the Homeworld 2 mod here, and the Freespace 2 mod here.
And today the official game’s been released, available exclusively online. It’s $20 (or £13), which doesn’t sound like much, but every penny spent will feel like a knife in the kidney if you do splash out. Fortunately the demo’s enough to make that pretty obvious. Forlorn impressions follow. Yeah, it’s an arcade game, just a simple shmup, so maybe I should cut it some flak. Except taking that approach in the first place suggests a fundamental not-getting-it. New Battlestar is rarely about, as this is, a single Colonial Viper heroically fending off massed Cylon attack; most of its space battles play as either gung-ho Star Warsy squadrons or Aliensy bickering between its cast of surly fighter pilots. The fun of the many outweights the fun of the one. Also, the distressing vulnerability of the series’ Vipers is made clear repeatedly, so having you play as one ship capable of invulnerability, special attacks, health pickups and respawing simply doesn’t feel anything like the show.
The game’s entirely cartoony, a 2D game in a 3D engine, and surely an attentive watch of the series would have revealed that this would not be what its fans wanted. (Am I a fan? I was. I reallly don’t know if I am after the atrocious Bob-Dylan-transcends-reality finale of the last season, though. I’m praying for less mysticism in season 4). With none of the show’s music or voice samples in there either, the whole thing feels depressingly characterless.
Even if the theme is ignored, this is still a shmup that handles awfully, lacks any sort of variety and never feels thrilling. Single player attempts to crudely emulate a few key space-based argy-bargies from the show, but, designed primarily for Xbox Live, multiplayer’s the focus here. The sluggish controls forbid any sort of meaningful skill, so that’s a frakk up too.
And did I mention the magic walls in space? That’s right, spacewall. A big blue floating circle around the map means you can’t go into that bit of space, even though it looks exactly the same as this bit of space.