If ever there was a movie destined to get a tie in game, it’s Battleship. After all the turn-based board game on which that terrible, terrible blockbuster is based is better suited to a videogame translation than a narrative feature. So, it should come as no surprise that the folks at Activision have gone and whipped up a wee adaptation for the 3DS. The similarities to the movie are all fairly superficial (which isn’t a bad thing as it doesn’t evoke any unpleasant memories) and the game is actually quite a different experience. Rather than being a big, loud, dumb assault on the senses, it’s a very deliberately paced strategy game. Don’t worry, battleships and alien spacecraft still blow up a plenty, just expect to actually have to use your brain a little bit while playing this thing, which was certainly never a requirement during the movie. It’s ultimately disposable like all movie tie-in games, but one that actually worth playing if you’re a fan Advance Wars-style strategy games.
The set up comes straight out of the movie. The navy are planning on doing so good ol’ war games in an unspecified tropical location, but accidentally run into some alien spacecrafts who are going to need to be blown up real good. We’re quickly introduced to a team of nearly identical navy officers who speak in that fantastic videogame instructional manner like, “I read it in the tactical menu” or “I’m a one square expert, you’re better with four.” The dialogue is all inconsequential beyond giving players instructions and that’s fine. This type of game doesn’t need a plot. If anything, it would be distracting.
So what is the game actually like? Geez, calm down and I’ll tell you. Basically, it’s a turn based war/strategy game. You’re given a fleet of ships each with their own unique abilities and travel/attack techniques. You’ll get a chance to position each ship around the enemy fleet and make an attack. Then when all you’re ships are used up, it’s the enemy’s turn to do the same. Pretty simple stuff with only modest variations added in throughout the campaign. Sometimes the alien ships are cloaked and you have to guess where they will be, sometimes you’ll enter into a “duel” which just means a very brief segment in first person shooting perspective to attack an alien ship. The duel function is the part of the game that is actually most reminiscent of the movie and ironically, the most disposable element.
Since the game design is so simple, the presentation is actually a little more polished that most tie-in games rushed to meet a locked-in release date. It’s nothing that will blow away anyone who has played a 3DS game before, but at least has slightly less jittery animations than a DS title. Gameplay mode is from a top down perspective and grid based (just like the board game, yay!), with every battle featuring brief rocket launching cut scenes. Those cinematics look nice, but there are only a handful in the game that are repeated endlessly and thankfully they can be turned off when you can’t bear to watch the same 10 second clip of a battleship blowing up yet a again (and trust me, that will happen).
All things considered, it’s actually a decent little strategy game that becomes addictive before quickly becoming irritatingly repetitive. I’d say it’s ideal for portable play unlike some recent 3DS titles, which is a plus. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty limited title that you’ll be done with fast. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s almost inevitable for a movie tie-in game, I just feel like these things shouldn’t be full retail games. If this were a downloadable title released along with the movie, it would actually be worthwhile. At full retail price, not so much. It’s far too limited. A few bells and whistles, like say a simple version of the board game (which seems so obvious it boggles the mind why it wasn’t included) or any multiplayer option could have added more value. Yet, judged on the low-low standards of tie-ins, Battleship ain’t bad and I actually enjoyed it more than the movie (although a swift kick to the nuts by someone screaming “I sunk your battleship” would have been more enjoyable). If you’re an insatiable strategy game addict, it definitely needs to be in your collection. As an average gamer, I suppose it’s worth taking a look at as a curiosity, it just isn’t something that you’ll desperately need to run out and buy. That may be faint praise, but still far exceeds the expectations anyone could have had for this thing.