Version tested Xbox 360
During the World Cup, whilst the English have been distracted, the Scots have been busy - as have the Irish and the West Indians.
They've been busy going to space, apparently, and starting careers in pirate gangs across the galaxy. No matter which far-flung corner of the galaxy you fly to in DarkStar One: Broken Alliance, sooner or later you seem to come across a feisty buccaneer with a strong - some might even say overacted - accent, just waiting to laser open your hold and take away your space monies. And kill you.
It's one of the many little peccadilloes which are likely to divide DarkStar One's potential audience, like the dreadful script delivery or the sometimes stuttering and fuzzy cut-scenes. For some these will be terms of endearment, a charming lack of corporate polish which bears testament to the game's relatively humble origins; for others, they'll be annoyances.
I must admit, I'm one of the former. DarkStar One feels every inch the small-studio PC game, and that's because it once was. Back in 2006, the now sadly defunct Ascaron Entertainment released Darkstar One for the PC, where it was swallowed pretty unceremoniously in a swarm of similar space-sims, although Kieron was quite the fan.
Broadly speaking, DarkStar One is an Elite clone, one of the many pretenders to the galactic crown forged for what was probably the first ever open-world title. It's a space-shooter, the first person cockpit-view your only portal onto a colourful stellar landscape of nebulae, space hulks and asteroid belts. Like Elite, players have a choice in how to conduct themselves in a violent, futuristic section of the Milky Way, choosing to pursue a career as a bounty hunter, trader, smuggler, mercenary or straight up murderer.
Unlike Elite, it's all pretty straightforward, with arcade flight controls, a simple HUD and a relatively limited trade aspect. Combat is fast, responsive and carefree, with a concern for energy reserves and more advanced ship management only really becoming an issue once pilots have found their feet.
The plot, which actually develops in a more interesting way than it sounds like it might, begins with hero Kayron jetting off in a prototype spaceship in an attempt to avenge the untimely death of his father. Cue calumny, intrigue and betrayal - and a lot of explosions. There's some background jazz about collecting organic artefacts to up the DarkStar's capacities, too.
Because DarkStar One takes a decidedly less heavyweight approach to the genre than titles such as X3 or Elite itself, it's an excellent candidate for conversion to console. (Purely because of the simplicity of control, you understand.) So, four years after its release, Kalypso has done just that with this Xbox 360 version - and to the great pleasure of some and the endless frustration of others, that's all they've really done.
Yes, the graphics have been updated to a crisp 1080p, but essentially the game remains completely unchanged in any other way. The aforementioned voice acting and cinema remains, as does a slightly awkward control scheme which sees roll control and thrust stymied somewhat by poor mapping and over-simplification respectively. There's not been much of a spring clean here, and the conversion smacks a little of a publisher jumping on some suddenly ownerless IP.