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Star X

Preview - a hands-on look at one of the GBA's first 3D games

Due for release through Bam next month, Star X looks set to be the GameBoy Advance's first truly 3D game, replacing the traditional sprites with flat shaded polygons. But what about the gameplay behind those graphics? We took a preview version of the game for a spin to find out more...

Where Did He Learn To Negotiate Like That?

Star X kicks off with a truly jawdropping introductory cinematic, rendered entirely in-engine and showing off the polygon chucking capabilities of the humble GBA to great effect. The screenshots may look a bit ropey, but apart from some rather drastic scenery pop-up in places the game does look better in motion. The story being told is somewhat less exciting though, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Battlestar Galactica. Apparently you are the sole survivor of a doomed diplomatic mission (which you see getting blasted out of the skies in the opening cutscene) and now it's up to you to race back home and save your people from enslavement. Still, this being a shoot 'em up in the best Star Fox tradition, the plot isn't really that important. What counts is that it gives you some vague excuse to blast your way through wave after wave of hostile aliens in 22 missions spread across both planetary surfaces and the depths of space. Objectives range from simply getting to the end of the level in one piece to destroying boss ships and clearing mines against the clock. And with settings including everything from forests and icy wastelands to oceans and orbiting space stations, there's plenty of variety on offer when it comes to locations as well.

Hit The Turbo

The game proper begins with an optional tutorial, which introduces you to your fighter's basic controls and then leaves you to blast targets, dodge buildings and fly through hoops on a kind of aerial assault course. On these planetary sections you're constantly moving forward, although you can use the left shoulder button to slow down a bit or B to turbo boost. As you weave your way through the map you can strafe left and right, move up and down, and even turn your ship on its side to slip through narrow gaps. If you hunt around and keep your eyes peeled you'll find all the usual power-ups to replenish your shields or boost your weapons strength, and some of the boss encounters can be incredibly difficult if you miss a vital bonus. In space, on the other hand, your ship is free floating, with a little map showing where you can find enemy vessels and other targets. The gameplay is still essentially horizontal though - you can turn and head off in another direction and (as on the surface sections) move up and down to some degree, but you can't loop the loop or roll on your axis, and if you reach the edge of the map your ship will automatically spin around. Star X is very much an old school arcade action game rather than a Wing Commander style space combat sim. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Star X is highly entertaining in a retro kind of way, and the fast and furious action is guaranteed to wreck the fire key and leave your fingers blistered. There's also the promise of four way multiplayer support, although sadly this wasn't present in the preview cart we played with. There was no save game function either, with eight letter passcodes recording your progress, an oversight which we hope will be fixed by the time the game reaches retail. Hint hint. Expect Star X to wing its way on to shelves across Europe some time in May.

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StarX screenshots

My GBA, it's full of Stars

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