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Friday
06Nov2009

Spacewar! + Lego = Captain Forever (The Review)

Captain Forever’s fate is bound to his indestructible space-craft Nemesis, damning him to an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Her imminent wrath wipes out the guilty and innocent alike without discrimination while sending out a Siren’s call to every pirate and boot/jacker within 5 parsecs. Hit the jump to get the skinny on this latest creation from Farbs, developer of the slickest resignation letter of all time, and the ultimate mashup game ROM CHECK FAIL.

Nemesis isn’t so much your starship as it is a command module, the heart of a craft assembled from the remnants of your defeated enemy’s ship. While piloting your craft through 2D space you’ll encounter a variety of procedurally generated ships, most of which are hostile pirates or cosmic law enforcement. Ship-to-ship combat or a hasty retreat are your only choices, and you have to choose quickly as a space-station size ship bristling with weaponry can make quick work of your smaller fighter. Win a battle and you’re rewarded with a bounty of new parts to add on to Nemesis, simultaneously increasing your wanted status and sending larger, tougher ships in your direction. This push and pull of upgrading your craft versus an increasing difficulty is the main crux of the game and the only real frustration I had with Captain Forever. A gentler difficulty curve or at the very least a user defined difficulty would significantly lengthen my average play session. 

You construct your ship from 3 basic building blocks: girders which make-up your ship’s form, lasers for offense, and boosters for propulsion. The options for customization here are pretty much limitless, with the exception of a need for symmetrical ship design due to Captain Forever’s physics model. Add too many girders to one side of your ship or loose your starboard engine and you’ll spin around like a one legged duck going for a swim. While limiting from a ship design perspective, this mechanic plays an important role in combat strategy and is something I would consider a necessary evil. The lego-like creativity of designing your own ship from scavenged parts, and testing out your build against various enemies is very satisfying when played in short bursts and perfectly suits the game’s web-based nature.

Farbs’ minimalist design and sparse presentation deliver Captain Forever with utter conviction and without so much as a hint of cynicism or irony. Refreshing indeed. The ghostly reflection of the pilot in the HUD and crackling voices of incoming transmissions go a long way pulling me into Captain Forever’s world. The play-field’s glowing vectors conjure memories of recent twin-stick shooters but I suspect this game’s true roots lie with original game of galactic combat, Spacewar!, to which it owes much in terms of both graphics and gameplay. Being browser based, Captain Forever is framed by a simple black web page under white text and is as authentic and convincing a terminal as I could ask for, using its inherently low budget as an asset rather than a handicap.

Farbs is currently asking for $15 in exchange for Captain Forever and the promise of access to additional Captain Forever titles in the near future, which, once released will bump the package price up to $20. $15 seems like a hard pill to swallow for such a small game but if Farbs can follow through with 2 more games of equal quality, I’d consider it a steal. You could consider as I did: an investment in a bright talent and an encouragement for Farbs to keep plugging away. If you’re on the fence, keep an eye out for an upcoming Captain Forever demo. 

Games For Breakfast Verdict: A fun palette cleanser full of good ideas, a little pricey.

Available For Mac & PC @ http://www.captainforever.com/

 

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Reader Comments (1)

Cheers for the review! I've launched the series now, so you can play the first game free at www.captainforever.com. Enjoy!

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFarbs

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