The Game: Help Ensign Adama and the rest of the remaining humans defeat the Cylons and save humanity in Battlestar Galactica, the space-shooting prequel set 40 years before the popular televsion show. (Vivendi Universal, 2003)
Memories: Like millions of kids, my life changed forever back in 1977 when my parents took me to go see Star Wars for the first time. I loved Star Wars, I lived Star Wars. I had Star Wars toys, Star Wars cereal, and Star Wars Underoos. And for the first time on television, the following year we got… Battlestar Galactica. Ok, so it wasn’t Star Wars, but if you squinted your eyes just right Vipers looked like X-Wing Fighters and Cylons resembled shiny Stormtroopers. Between that and the fact that my parents told me that Starbuck was Luke Skywalker’s cousin, Battlestar Galactica became my “bargain bin” version of Star Wars.
Likewise, Battlestar Galactica resembles other Star Wars brand shooters such as the Starfighter games and even the classic X-Wing and TIE Fighter games. Battlestar Galactica (the game) takes place 40 years before the television show, and in it you play Ensign Adama (a younger version of Commander Adama, played on the show by Lorne Green). The rest of the plot will seem familiar to fans of the original series; your job is to defend the battlestars from the Cylons and other attackers.
Presented from a third-person point of view, gamers have the typical on screen radar, damage sensors and targeting systems at their disposal. The third-person view of your ship makes the game seem more like an arcade game than a serious space shooter, but as the controls (especially yous ship’s energy system) become increasingly complex, the game begins to show its true colors. The controls begin simple enough – the triggers control your thrust/brake and two buttons fire different types of weapons, but as the game progresses you’ll need to choose your attacks more carefully. Depending on how long you hold down the fire buttons, your ship fires varying powers of lasers. Likewise, by holding down the missile button you can target incoming Cylons. Another weapon in your arsenal are your wingmen, which can be tasked via the d-pad to attack, defend, scatter and regroup.
Like the previously mentioned Star Wars games, Battlestar Galactica presents you with goals and objectives during each mission. How well you perform each one decides your rating and unlocks various game features, including concept art, movies, and clips of the Sci-Fi Channel’s Battlestar series.
Visually, the game is above average with effects that rival the original show’s! Unfortunately, the default third-person view makes your enemies often appear quite small and the camera tends to whip around in a nauseating fashion as you zip around the universe, but overall the view works and makes for some gorgeous visuals (not that you’ll have much time for sightseeing, mind you). Likewise, the audio seems to be (from what I can remember) faithful enough to the orignal show to spark a few memories, including the original theme song.
But even all of that isn’t enough to make Battlestar Galactica a winner. First off, it’s too hard. It took me several attempts just to get through the game’s initial training mission. Your ship’s fancier maneuvers are complicated to learn and pull off in battle, and the screen presentation suffers from “information overload” at times when your entire view is filled with alarms, sensors, missiles, ships, explosions, planets, and various other celestial anomalies. Worst of all, there’s no “in-game” saving ability, which means you’ll find yourself backtracking 10-15 minutes if you get blown up near the end of a level. And don’t plan on your buddies helping you either – there’s no multiplayer mode here, online or otherwise.
The cut scenes are nice and the opportunity to fly a Viper (and later a Cylon Raider!) is simply cool, but the game’s complex controls, aggressive AI and sparse save points make it too frustrating to start over every time you fail a mission. Fans of the series will get a kick out of the game, but only serious space shooters will be able to get very far.