The boys are back in town, baby! Star, Trey, and Lain return! I never thought I’d be glad to say that, as the original StarWings had a lot of issues, the CliffsNotes version being its short play length and unfriendly gameplay. Developer RicolaVG clearly listened to the criticism, as its sequel, StarWings: Mission Command (80 MSP), improves on the previous’ shortcomings at every turn (finally, auto-fire!), while keeping intact the campy and ridiculous (read: therefore entertaining) voice work.
The storyline is still mostly inconsequential, bringing back mercenary group StarWings and space policemen Galactic Defense (who may have swapped out their morals), though there are a few revelations and changes to make things more interesting to follow. Any excuse I’m given for my rampage through space is always appreciated, particularly when it’s being narrated by Star.
The guys are one short this time (Lain has left to join GD and its steady paychecks presumably, though he is an unlockable extra), but go on a galaxy-wide recruitment trip to fill their ranks. The new supporting characters are nothing special, though the options and formations they allow for are a welcome wrinkle. Another fix comes with those formations, as you are now able to fly solo (the other two ships act as ‘extra lives’) should you choose. It makes avoiding incoming fire a lot easier, though it definitely limits your output firing rate, creating an interesting dynamic as to how you’ll play. In addition, some levels will require a certain number or formation of pilots, further mixing things up.
While the gameplay remains side-scrolling, Mission Command has tossed the former’s linearity, doling out its stages two or three at a time, allowing you to focus on the story-based stuff or take the slow and steady route to build your roster and their individual firepower / specials. Both the difficulty and objective vary, from simply reaching the end of a stage, to avoiding hazards during a speed run (eh, more a pain than it’s worth), or fighting a boss ship. In fact, my only real swipe at the game would be the menu between stages, which is a tad unwieldy at first.
Besides the money for upgrades you acquire for completing missions and side stages, you can spend tokens (occasionally left behind by defeated enemies or asteroids) to unlock other goods, like a throwback level & boss, or quicker recharge shot. Some extras are more beneficial than others (a credits screen, really?), but you can count on close to two hours if you want to play through and unlock everything.
The game’s not going to make anyone’s best-of leaderboard (maybe in my heart, …maybe), but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t entertained. I can honestly say it’s a dollar well spent this time. StarWings: Mission Command is proof that stronger effort and a willingness to learn from past mistakes can turn a formerly disastrous project into a worthy series.