Day 151: StarPilot

Posted: 2011/04/09 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #151, and today’s game is “StarPilot”.

StarPilot is a game that is able to rise above others in its genre and offer more than you might expect, and all with attractive presentation and some options that are anything but run-of-the-mill.

First, from the developer (jsmars):

“Force your enemies into your lethal StarTrail in this galactic arena game. Use items to do loops, quick turns, emit rainbow trails and more! Play against your friends on XBox Live or against computer controller bots, complete singleplayer challanges and beat your friends at the highscore! 5 different game types, including Drawing Mode where you and your friends can paint with your trail.”

For some people this game will invite comparisons with Snake (as popularised by Nokia wireless phones). Others will point to the light-cycles from 1982’s Tron as the inspiration for this game. For me, it will always be 1981’s Intellivision game “SNAFU” (an acronym I didn’t know yet in 1981, since I was 8 years old). SNAFU, which came out in an era where the Atari 2600 was the main competition, was ahead of its time (in some ways much more advanced than Nokia’s Snake which came out nearly 20 years later, particularly in its number of game modes and its ability to use diagonals).

StarPilot takes the ideas pioneered in SNAFU and decks them out to the “9”s with analogue control that gives you a real sense of flying, you won’t mistake this for classic tron light-cycles with their sharp right turns. Despite the sweeping turns and power-ups, the core gameplay of avoiding the trails of your enemies while trying to lure them into your trail is intact, and the speed and controls make it as enjoyable as any game I’ve played in this genre.

The four locales might be less than you would expect, but the five game modes offer more than you might expect, including some inventive ones. The most innovative of all perhaps is a mode where you are encouraged simply to draw using your ship as the stylus, a mode that unexpectedly is classed as one of the game’s multiplayer modes allowing people to get together and draw together over Xbox Live. This was a Dream.Build.Play entrant for 2008 and one of the earliest XBLIGs to support online play, too. The full list of modes include:

– Deathmatch (log as many kills as possible in the time limit, your deaths don’t directly factor into whether you win or not)

– Last Man Standing (you have a limited number of lives, and once you’ve run out of lives you’re out of the match)

– Coin Rush (coins are strewn around the play area, and the player who collects the most wins, but the trails are still in effect and you can still die from them which hurts your ability to collect coins)

– Snake Rush (one big coin is repeatedly dropped into the playfield, and each time it’s collected a new one is placed, with winner collecting the most coins)

– and finally the previously discussed Drawing mode.

Unusually, the ability to make tight turns isn’t inherent in the control setup, it’s activated only be picking up the appropriate power-up. There are a raft of power-ups, most of them the kinds of boosts and other things you would expect to see in racing games.

The control over the camera angles is appreciated, allowing you to switch to something close to an over-the-shoulder perspective if you wish that gives the game an immediacy the top-down view lacks. For 240 Microsoft Points, this game offers a nice set of options and is worth at least trying the demo of.

Click here to download “StarPilot”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.

Know someone else who would want to read the review, or rate the game? “Share This” and invite them to.


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