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Though it draws heavy inspiration from a particular sci-fi franchise well known for boldly sending a spaceship full of uniformed crew where no one has gone before, Star Command doesn't fiddle around with any namby-pamby prime directive. The galaxy is full of danger and backstabbing aliens looking to get a piece of your sweet tech. Sure, diplomacy is sometimes an option with the strange crafts you encounter in this slick pixel-based quest, but it's just way more fun to blow your adversaries out of the stars or die trying in an often intense and chaotic adventure through the cosmos.
A good portion of your focus during more peaceful stretches of exploration – and in the downtime between encounters – is on managing a diverse crew and tinkering with your starship. Spending tokens from mission encounters lets you recruit new crewmembers, buy additional chambers for your vessel, and upgrade existing rooms. Fresh crewmembers can be sorted into three different types of positions, and their uniforms and job roles are determined by the color of the room you assign them to. Red shirts handle weapons and on-board security, yellow shirts tackle engineering and repairs, and blue shirts run sickbay and perform healing duties. Members can be reassigned anytime, but the more they serve in a particular role, the better they'll get at it, which rewards your ability to keep crew alive across the game's challenging and humorous campaign.
Staying alive isn't easy. It turns out that most aliens aren't so friendly, preferring to solve the galaxy's problems with laser blasts rather than playing nice. That's fine, because Star Command's encounters are pleasantly heart-pounding in execution. Real-time battles have you charging up ship-to-ship blasters to whittle down foes' shields and damage their hulls, and firing shots brings up a clever mini-game to dole out hits and damage, depending on the kind of weapon used. Meanwhile, raiding parties beam aboard and attack, forcing you to switch gears and cobble together a security team to fend off the on-foot assaults. It devolves into a mess of chaos at times, though there's something absolutely rewarding about making it through a particularly grueling encounter by the skin of your teeth – and then sending crew to patch up the damage afterwards.
The bottom line. Star Command's violent romp through the galaxy is equal parts challenging and clever, making it a must-play for sci-fi strategy fans.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Great Star Trek-inspired sci-fi vibe. Intense ship-to-ship battles. Cool pixel art presentation.
Staying alive is a real challenge at times.