Genre: Board Game Developer: Synergistic Software Publisher: Mindscape Players: 1 Released: 1994
Ah, Battleship. Who hasn’t had at least one go with a family member in this board game? It’s got everything: Marine Warfare, explosions, battleships, water, everything. Milton Bradley really stumbled on a hit with this one, though technically, like Parker Brother’s Monopoly, it isn’t quite an original creation. Apparently a gentleman by the name of Clifford Von Winkler invented the game in the early 1900s as a simple pen and paper grid-game but neglected to have it patented. Flash forward forty years and Parker Brothers scoop up the patent and continue to sleep on their ever-growing board game money pile. But enough history, let’s have at the game.
Visually, the game is very subpar. Nothing really stands out, from the boats themselves, looking like gray canoes, to the green mermaid appearing when you sink. It’s all very bland and can be kind of a sore to look at. Everything looks like it was phoned in and looks like a licensed game would be expected to.
Aurally, there isn’t much to say. There are rough sound effects that mimic explosions, these are keen sounds and aren’t anything to insult. They weren’t superbly done and they weren’t terribly, they were just done. All that’s included musically is the tune of the title screen, a little bass tune when the enemy has a turn to move, and the little requiem that plays when the player loses. Keeping this mind, what’s there isn’t terrible, but it’s nothing you’ll be ripping any time soon. It’s the equivalent of typical motion picture background music.
Now onto the gameplay. From the main menu you get the choices of the main game Super Battleship, Classic Battleship, and “Enter Secret Code.” I’ll start simplest to most complicated. The “Enter Secret Code” is just as it sounds. You enter a secret code and you can go to a level you’ve previously reached.
Classic Battleship is just as straightforward. An electronic remake of the classic board game, it gives you a simple grid to place your ships and you choose one of the four difficulties of the opponent. It’s a nice touch, but I don’t fully understand the need to have four different difficulties for classic battleship considering the simplicity of the game. One major flaw, however, is the lack of multi-player. Battleship was invented to be a multi-player experience and it seems ridiculous to ignore it as a feature. An additional feature is how it plays more quickly. You choose three locations to attack instead of one, and detonate accordingly. Other than this, everything else remains the same. You either hit or miss, and once you destroy all of the enemy’s ships, you win.
The Super Battleship option is the real meat and potatoes of this game. This acts as a campaign mode where the game places you in various scenarios you must conquer. Unofficially, it creates these scenarios in groups of “levels” where each level provides an additional set of scenarios to complete. Each of these scenarios has an individual gimmick to provide a sort of challenge to the player. You might start off with an armada of battleships against a slew of patrol boats, or you might play as a couple of patrol boats against a handful of destroyers. The game is composed of little mixes and matches such as these, and each level brings about more variety.
When you jump into the game itself, you’re greeted with the HUD and a message telling you how many rounds you have left to complete the scenario. This timer never really gets in the way, it’s just there to give you an approximation of how quickly the scenario can be cleared. The first thing you’ll notice in that the games runs in a menu driven turn-based system. You get one main menu of four options: Move, Target, Continue, Status. Each option does what is says and nothing else. When moving, it takes into effect that you must speed up and slow down to go anywhere and each ship moves at a different pace. The large ships are slow whereas the small ships are fast. Target allows you to choose a weapon and an enemy. Each weapon has different strengths and weaknesses. Some are stronger and are less accessible, some are weaker and more abundant, etc. The continue option leaves the ship as it is, letting inertia and the ocean keep it moving in the direction it is currently facing. The final option of this interface is status, whose only purpose is providing largely unnecessary details about you ship such as weight, class, name, who commands it, and health. The layout is very straightforward and takes only a few minutes to get a hold of.
Once you’ve got the interface down and you’re finally able to tackle the objectives, you can finally experience the spirit of the game. If you aren’t a person with patience, this is not a game for you. Super Battleship moves at a very slow pace and can easily become tiresome. It largely consists of getting the ships close enough to engage in battle and having a firefight and seeing who comes out alive. Alternatively, one could escape from battle, pressing start to retreat, and initiating the firefight when the enemy has been weakened by nearby island cannons or simply avoiding combat altogether. Truly there isn’t much else aside from trying to blow away the enemy team.
One tactic I’ve found surprisingly effective, is that of kamikaze. The game seems to register ties as victories so long as all of the enemy ships are defeated, no matter the condition of the victor’s team. So you could really just ram the enemies into oblivion and leave the scenario with a victory. I’m not sure whether this is a glitch or an insight into actual navy practices, but it’s an effective strategy.
Overall, Super Battleship is a game that does offer entertainment value, albeit in small bits varying depending on tastes, but it gets old really quickly and will have you hankering to whip out the old board game classic instead. Only collectors need apply.
SCORE: 5 out of 10