What did I know about Star Control before trying it? Absolutely nothing. Well except that it's categorized as an "adventure" game and takes place in space. Which I guess I could've guessed from the title really... I always check a bit of gameplay and screenshots before purchasing a game, sometimes even a metascore if it's a newer game. I got Star Control on Gog.com and they've bundled it with Star Control 2. Now, after having tried the first game, I realize that it is not entirely clear whether the screens on gog.com are from the first or the second game, but I guess they are rather the latter. Graphically they're very similar but I suspect that gameplay-wise they're not.
Just looking at Star Control I wasn't entirely sure if it was my cup of tea. I liked what I was reading about it, if you've read any amount of posts from me before you might've seen me mentioning Escape Velocity, a "space trading and combat simulator" game as wikipedia puts it. I love Escape Velocity and thought Star Control sounded a lot like it. Looking at it however it was verging on the style retro-graphics that I can handle with a bit of overenthusiastic coloration and everything being just too close up or too pixelated to really make out what I am looking at. But as I very rarely let graphics alone get in the way of me trying a game out that otherwise sounds like fun, I decided to give Star Control a spin.
So I started it up and immediately had no idea what I needed to do. With older games the first thing to figure out is always what keys to use, because it's rarely the good old "WASD"-configuration. I say "good old" but back in the day it seems like each game used their own setup of keys and holy macaronies am I happy that is no longer the case. I did manage to get my ship... err wait a sec, ships? Am I playing two ships at once here? I don't get it... well anyway, I did manage to get them both to fly around and shoot stuff, but had no idea what to do beyond that. Was I supposed to kill the other ship? Is Star Control a multiplayer game?! Why had no one told me!
|Pew pew! Ok... now what?|
At first I try to actually give things some thought. I try to figure out what could be a good move? Bearing in mind I have literally no clue what the objective is or barely even what I am looking at, my trying to think things through doesn't actually produce much in terms of results. I move my ship around a bit, fortify some things and mine some things. Then I move my ship back. Then up again. More mining and fortifying. Sometimes I get a message about something, but it doesn't seem to make any difference because I keep moving my ship around the dots without anything else happening. Whatever is supposed to happen isn't and I really don't understand what is going on. Unless this is the game? Maybe this is what is supposed to happen and I am winning! But I can't tell.
I sigh... Star Control seems to be one of those retro games that people have a very fond memory of, and I don't doubt that it is a good game. If you can get to it. Star Control is a bit blocked off by distance, and by that I mean distance in time. Being released in 1990, for a computer game especially, Star Control is pretty old and from a time when conventions like explaining the game in-game weren't in place yet. A game like Star Control feels like you pretty much have to read through the manual to get a hang of and probably also be in the mind-set of really old-school computer games, they were just crafted differently back then - for better or worse. For me and in this particular case, the bar was too difficult to get over and I quietly uninstalled it again after about an hour of finnicking around with it.
Star Control left me feeling left-out, too young to understand a game too shaped by its time. Maybe I needed to give it more time, but if one hour of poking around didn't make me one bit smarter I think I am a hopeless cause. Star Control and me didn't click, and in a time when there are so many other games wanting my attention, it's very difficult to sit around for too long with one that gives me a very cold shoulder. It made me no less interested in trying the sequel however, rather the opposite! Star Control 2 also boasts a rather awesome soundtrack so I am definitely looking forward to trying that out.