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8  |  "You Sunk My Spaceship!"
Darryl B. , 3/11/2006 10:33:45 PM
Wow, HERE'S a helluva game that was worth the wait. No, it's not some console or PC game that was delayed forever by Microsoft or E. A. (the next Duke Nukem, anybody?) -- it's freeware -- but due to it's description in the Retro Gamer mag I got, which it was on the included cd saying it was in regards to a strategic space combat game, I wanted to try it out pretty quick. But alas, it didn't work on my mom's computer, for some reason or other...

...initially. She just got herself a new computer several weeks ago -- which runs at least 100 times better than the old, crappy one -- so I went back to that R. Gamer cd and tried out another game that also didn't work the first time around...something in regards to a 3-D biplane shooter game. Hey, it worked! It kept my interest for about 45 minutes...then I tried out Gridhunt.

WHOA! Heavily addicting! And, weeks later, it's still on the computer. (Granted, I can't take it off now anyway, since the nephew's hooked on it too...)

Battleship was a great, mondo classic board game (does it count as a "board game", now that I think of it?) that surely turned the [board] gaming world on it's ear when it was released. Then Electronic Battleship also raised that level a little, due to the cool explosion sound effects and all (if you could program your ships in correctly in the first place, that is), and now the ante's upped once more, with this being "Battleship in space". (Note: yeah, there was also a Battleship video game that made it's rounds onto several consoles and handhelds and all a while back, but I haven't played them in order to offer an opinion.)

After inputing your name when you start a game of Gridhunt, you must pick one of three races that you want to represent your spaceship fleet; all the fleets are the same in size, the only difference being the in-game dialogue of the races when you play (which I'll get to that later). You'll also position your ships on a grid, which is where the differences from Battleship emerges, since most of the ships you can place diagonally on the grid (I *think* you could only place one or two of your ships diagonally on Battleship, if you forced the plastic pegs juuuuust right...). Two of the ships are also shaped rather strangely, making for a bit of guesswork as to how to destroy them once you find them in combat.

If you're playing a two player game, it's advisable for the other player to leave the room so they won't see where you place your ships, and vice versa (it'd ruin the game), and I assume that when you play this over the internet, you won't see where your opponent is placing their ships, but I've yet to try this out to confirm. The computer will then "spin" to see who goes first, which makes another difference between this and Battleship, since usually a Battleship play goes something like this:

Player (calling out grid spaces): B2!

Player 2: Miss! Uh...G3?

Player 1 (yawning) Miss! A9?

(other player tosses his tray across the room in boredom)

Nope, here each ship gets four shots apiece at the grid, making TWENTY shots per round...initially. However, it won't be too long until a ship is found, as the screen is split, showing both starfleets, one of which fires and fires and fires...then a pause will show that one certain shot takes it's time to travel to the other end of the galaxy, and KABOOM! There's a hit! And each time a ship is hit, it looks a little worse, denoting damage (a cool touch), urging Martha Stewart to come and clean it up.

Now, with the very first game I played -- and with my very first ship being found by the computer -- I was like "how come the computer is using every SINGLE shot to bring down my ship?" when it was the computer's turn again. Well, it didn't take long to figure out that this is mandatory, since it will decrease the amount of shots at your grid by four with every ship destroyed; nothing's worse than your opponent getting four to twelve more shots per round than YOU are, and filling up more and more of your grid, the closer to them finding your last ship(s) and winning the game, damn them.

Then another nifty little touch really improves on the Battleship theme: NUKES!! Somewhere on each grid is up to three nukes (the default setting; changing this to anything less would cause every game to go on FOREVER!); hit one, and at the least, it'll clear out a big section of the starmap, and at worst, it'll totally destroy a spaceship, even the biggest one of the fleet. There's no better feeling you can get from not only finding a nuke, but then suddenly two enemy spaceships have taken damage from it as well (making a good argument for not positioning several ships near each other!).

Also, as I mentioned earlier, there's dialog that further spices up the game, whether a hit is scored or not at the end of a round: out of the three races to choose from, the robotic race is the most boring, just saying they need to regroup, we're taking damage, prepare for counterattack, etc. However, the humans are a bit better, suggesting that maybe they should retreat if they're getting their butts walloped (sure, like you have a choice), or they'll cop a Star Wars Han Solo attitude with "Yee-haw! We turned it into space-dust!" once a ship is destroyed.

However, THE best dialogue comes from a race of bugs (who's name rhymes with Chaka Kahn, of all things [and where the hell has she been, by the way?]), with declarations of "They are dying, my queen? Isn't it beautiful?", making you wonder who pissed in their Wheaties. They will also snarl "BURN! BURN!" once you nail a ship [kicks the bug people out of local Greenpeace chapter], and "Our pathetic foe cannot find our fleet. Ha ha!" once the enemy misses during a round (and nothing like adding "ha ha!" to dialogue to make a character likeable).

As long as your mouse works fine, you can't go wrong with the controls, the sound effects and music are good (there's a different theme for each race), especially the explosions, and the graphics range from being cartoonish and cheesy to cool, since the bugs' ships range from looking like ants to turtles, whereas the humans' biggest ship looks like an ocean liner (it reminds me of Saddam Hussein's boat, actually...well, before we torched it, that is) to a shuttlecraft straight out of Star Trek.

Unfortunately, once you're reduced to only one ship/four shots per round, a game can drag on for 45 minutes. (I recommend having a book handy when this happens.) It would have been nice if you could do some kind of a sensor sweep in an area of the starmap -- say, the size of a nuke -- to detect an enemy ship (although have it take up an entire turn to do so would make it fair). And holding down a key to speed up the action while waiting for an enemy's shots to finish firing during a round would have been good too.

As I (somewhat) hinted in the previous paragraph, this game really deserves a sequel, like with having that sensor sweep as an extra feature. It also doesn't seem fair for the largest ship, which takes up six spaces on the starmap, to still be able to fire all four shots during a round when five out of it's six sections have been hit by the enemy; it'd be nice if the ship wasn't able to fire all four shots during a round, due to damage. And maybe some nice 3-D cutscenes would be cool too, once a ship is blown up.

Granted, the game's great as it is; you could start keeping a diary of the crazy games that happened, and after only two days of playing, you could already have probably five pages filled, since there must be billions of combinations of games that can occur. Two examples off the top of my head that I can think of is one game where the computer immediately found, and destroyed, four of my five ships before I could find even ONE of theirs...and then I ended up coming back and *winning* that game, of all things (!). And another one consisted of me finding a ship and one of their nukes during the very first round...then the COMPUTER, on it's first turn, found a nuke and two of my ships, damn him/it. Niiiiice...

The computer also makes a good, formidable enemy, since it's unpredictable at times, placing several ships together, which most of us aren't going to do. And be prepared to kick yourself in the butt after losing a long game, as the winner's starmap is shown, which, time after time after TIME you'll see where three shots just missed a nuke, five shots just barely missed/totally surrounded a ship, etc. Nuts...

Well, enough lengthy babbling about this simple, yet extremely addicting game. Go to already and download it.

Then destroy them all. 8/10

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