Apps That Don’t Suck: Star Command

Star Command is more fun than it should be, but it could be a lot more.

Star Command was famously funded on Kickstarter, which is pretty cool. I like the idea of indie game designers being given the chance to really push the envelope, and crowdfunding can be an ideal way to raise the necessary capital to create a game from start to finish.

Warballon, the company behind the game, ran into several snags along the way, including missing target release dates, not including everything the campaign promised, and several less than flattering reviews after it was released. I have a little experience working on the periphery of app game development, and I can see how this young company got in over its head. First, I don’t know of any game project that looked the same in the original design doc as it did when it was released. I also don’t know of any game company, at least among those small enough to not have a dedicated project manager paid well enough to be brutal about deadlines, that can consistently hit their target release dates. Projects can go off the rails for any number of reasons, from feature creep to poor code to underestimating how much time programming and art tasks actually take.  Experienced app houses can get pretty good at that dance, but the new kids, especially the really small outfits, mess it up all the time. I’m sympathetic to their struggles.

Screenshot from Star Command game app by Warballoon.

Additionally, I think the harsh reviews really do the final game a disservice. Star Command is clever, engaging, and a lot of fun to play.  If Warballoon hasn’t already gone through the money they’ve raised, many of the specific complaints could easily be addressed in updates.

Screenshot from Star Command game app by Warballoon.

Arm the photon torpedoes!

In Star Command, you get to embrace your inner Captain Janeway, as you build your own starship, room by room, and travel the universe facing adorable enemies. At its core, it’s a resource management game with a little RPG thrown in for spice. Your crew needs to continually restock your ammo stocks as you face off in simple combat with enemy ships. Some enemies beam hordes of big bads onto your ship, which your crew has to kill as they are keeping the ammo stocked and the shields at maximum.

Screenshot from Star Command game app by Warballoon.

Beating the game doesn’t take very long. I was able to get through it in a couple of hours, total. After a win, you have the opportunity to get a bigger ship and replay all the missions, with the difficulty cranked up a little. It’s a little cheap, but Warballoon is planning on improving on this in a future update.  They update their dev blog pretty frequently, and it looks like there are some interesting things on the horizon.  Since I tend to buy/download apps I can beat in a relatively short amount of time, I like the idea of future updates making the game play richer, and it increases the chances I’ll play again when the update comes out. I never touch most of my quick-turnover games again after I beat them, especially if the updates only fix bugs or address new players.

As of right now, Star Command is only available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod, but plans are in the works for an Android version, per Warballoon’s website. I’ve definitely gotten $2.99 worth of fun out out of the game, and would place it pretty high on my “favorite app games ever” list.

 

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