Take the simplicity of an arcade shooter, mingle a few shallow winks and nods to the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica” TV series remake, and out pops this slapdash blast-em-up. With lurching controls, an unreasonably limited field of view, and fewer than a dozen laconic space battles in which players can frak it up in primitive approximations of their favorite Galactica or Cylon fighters, this title bears as little resemblance to a quality vidgame as it does the TV series on which it’s allegedly based.
NBC U licensed “Battlestar Galactica” as a casual downloadable game, rather than a full-fledged retail release on DVD, in order to get it out while the series, about to begin its fourth and final season, is at peak popularity. Never mind that said series garnered Emmy, Hugo, and Saturn awards, this game is clearly not intended to be narratively deep or wow players with simulation physics or offer more than a few breezy opportunities to pilot familiar ships like the nimble human Viper VII or the sharpshooting Cylon Speed Raider.
To that end, “Battlestar Galactica” takes place in areas that look 3-D, but actually limit mobility to a single, two-dimensional plane. Nudging ships forward or executing barrel rolls and flip turns, players scoot around small, squarish areas cluttered with obstacles like asteroids and other space detritus, spraying opponents with kinetic energy weapons and missiles for points or to beat a timer. It’s not quite put-a-quarter-in-me “Asteroids” simple, but it’s close.
Contrary to publisher Sierra’s claims that “players will be able to re-live their favorite missions from the TV series,” “Battlestar Galactica” merely bookends shoot-outs with voiceless, disappointingly blunt objective checklists before revving up a level and initiating a tally count. Fans looking for appearances, or even voice overs, from the series’ stars will be disappointed.
Missions are accompanied by the titles of real episodes, and it all sounds nice on paper, but in practice they merely amount to assailing little red radar blips time and again, launching missiles, pivoting, and repeating. On medium difficulty, the whole 10-mission campaign is ridiculously easy and finishing the lot is a snap in one, or at most, two hours.
Multiplayer is an area in which “Battlestar Galactica” fares modestly better with its 10 distinctively debris-adorned space battlefields and unique “Domination” mode where up to 16 players attempt to stake out turrets.
But the biggest problem lies in the way “Battlestar Galactica” controls. To artificially ratchet up the difficulty, the designers chose to limit the view so that enemies have to be nearly adjacent on radar before they pop into view, which makes targeting akin to aiming a jousting lance while wearing a bucket instead of a helmet. Without a target or tracking feature, battles feel more like get-lucky bullet-brawls. It’s not quite blind-fighting, but it’s close, and a far cry from the sort of sophistication fans of this richly drawn series deserve.