A frank admission in Star Command’s final Kickstarter update suggests “30% of the original vision” has been realised. One suspects that’s hardly unrepresentative of game development as a whole, but the peril of Kickstarter is that such ambitions are made public. As such, early investors seduced by those grand plans may bristle to discover that negotiations here are conducted at the business end of a phaser or plasma cannon.
Once you’ve recruited your crew and assigned them roles, a linear series of missions sends you from planet to planet, with just about every extraterrestrial encounter resulting in conflict. All the action takes place aboard your craft – rendered in an attractive if familiar pixel art style – and it’s a grippingly frantic plate-spinning act in the early hours: you’ll need your crew to down tools and pick up their handguns when invaders beam aboard, but you can ill afford to leave your dodge generator unmanned when laser fire is about to hit, or have an empty turret when an enemy’s shield is finally down.
A steep difficulty curve turns the simple act of manoeuvring your crew into a series of frenzied jabs, while the timing-based minigames for landing a successful hit become surprisingly tense when the stakes are so high. It’s rarely elegant – a horde of zombie cosmonauts exited our ship as quickly as they entered after arriving next to a hull breach – but in battling back from the brink of obliteration there are moments you’ll feel like a surrogate Kirk. Crashes, glitches and repetition break the spell, but when it’s time for some thrilling heroics Star Command proves itself a worthwhile enterprise.
Star Command is available on the App Store now for $2.99 / £1.99. iPad version tested.