World peace has been attained, and it's all thanks to a satellite named Indigo. This hippie greenie self-learning orbital weapons platform has persuaded all governments to give up their WMD's and everything is just great. Wait a minute... it's gone mad. Oh crap.
Space pod is an arcade game with some tactical elements. Set above the glowing sphere of earth, you must steer a bathysphere with arms that looks rather like the pod from the film 2001 A Space Odyssey. The pod is rotated and pushed with the arrow keys, so the game is essentially two dimensional.
The upgrade system is the central element of the game. Different components can be found floating in space and are bolted on with a press of the S key. Components include solar panels, different weapons, engines etc. and soon your little white ball is a big battle station (with a little white ball on the front).
There are actually four game types on offer, but it's not really clear until you read the instructions and realise that you can scroll around the initial game screen. The game is quite difficult to pick up and play. A tutorial or some in game hints would have helped. It's a safe bet that people playing for the first time will end up quitting just to find out what keys to press.
The 'Arcade' game is the important one. It's mission based. Enemies appear and a woman who looks like the AOL girl, pops up on the heads up display and tells you where they are and what to do. You get to face ships, other pods, satellites or 'castle' defence platforms, and your mission is usually seek and destroy, but you do get to rescue wriggling astronauts.
The 'Rescue' and 'King Of The Hill' game types were not available in the demo version reviewed. Network play is a big plus. A deathmatch game is there too which you can play against humans or bots as you choose.
The game starts with a very impressive intro of a rocket entering orbit. In fact, the graphics, sound and presentation in Space Pod are all very high quality. The visuals are all realistic looking too. Unlike almost any shoot-em-up, the craft in Space Pod look like NASA (or ESA) designed them. Flying over the sphere of Earth feels and looks great. Destroyed ships break up and the bits float away. There are plenty of settings to customise the display, sound and control options all of which illustrate the quality of this title.
Space Pod tends to play like an FPS game, with a low quantity of hard to kill opponents. The innovative upgrade element does not make the game strategic in practise because it's usually a case of scrambling for all of the floating junk you can. On some occasions I found myself stabbing the S key more often than the fire control and on a few occasions the keyboard buffer overran and the PC made that familiar squeal as if in pain. Lose one of the three lives and you start with no upgrades which often means instantaneous death.
The sound effects are good. The rocket launch sequence, complete with the engine boom and the radio chatter are great. As you would expect from Bjorn Lynne, the music is good quality if not very catchy.
I personally had a few problems with the playability and found the game to be about average for a shoot-em-up. Others might disagree. With great depth, multiple game types and online multiplayer support, Space Pod has a lot to offer the casual gamer.
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