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JadeDragon's reviews and playing tips: Pocket PC and Zaurus Linux games

Interstellar Flames, by Xen Games (ported to Linux by Eon Games), $6.99
Reviewed August 2002

From Raiden to Starlancer, from Swarm to Star Wars, I’m a slave of flight shooting games. I still love ZIO’s Metalion, but one look at Interstellar Flames and you won’t be able to put it down. Developed by Xen Games, Interstellar Flames will take you to space where you’ll fight alien ships and take out space battle cruisers all by yourself! It’s tough to survive let alone beat endless fighter ships and take out countless gunner installations. Finish the first mission and you’re only 11 more away from victory.

The story line is a simple one. “A vast horde of alien battleships is approaching our solar system. Due to maintenance problems only one fighter craft is ready to defend the planet.” There isn’t really a story advancing process as you go up levels; the story only gives you a reason to fight. Then again, I didn’t load up this game to read a story.

Without much of an argument, Interstellar Flames has some of the best 3D graphics at a consistent high frame rate. Compare to Metalion, IF has richer game graphics as it mixed the background with a large number of elements. The surface of an alien battle cruiser is your battlefield, long enough for a decent length of flying. The on-ship gunners, shield and radar look sharp with unique styles. Some of the enemy fighters will remind you of the Wookie ship in Star Wars, but they all have different weapons and flight patterns. If you kill the enemy fighters, you get to collect the weapons they left behind and see different weapon effects, such as bombs, laser, short light-saber looking missiles and more. Among other visuals, you will see explosions, smoke trail behind your ship when you take damage, your own ship’s shadow but enemy ships don’t have shadows.

There is plenty of game play to go with the eye candy. You fly on top of a battle cruiser that makes you feel like you’re flying over the death star in Star Wars. There are radar on the high decks of the ship, and shields, cannon guns, rocket launchers, laser beam guns and fighter launch pads on the open deck of the ship. You need to take everything out to complete the mission. The higher missions have larger population of these weapon arrays and deadlier weaponry. Of course what’s a flying game without dogfights? You will face a fleet of fighter ships, some shooting at you, some are on a suicide collision course. Many of them carry some power ups that you need to grab to survive. Look for the minefield these fighters treat you to, and some really cool looking formations. In later levels, the fighters and the mines will get smarter and follow you more closely.

You control the ship with your hardware buttons and you can turn on the auto fire function. The control of the ship allows you to fly vertically and horizontally plus the banking effect and 360-degree flip, which add that much more fun to the game. I’ve used two strategies in the game, both working very well. One is just to keep your ship flying as close to the battle cruiser’s surface as you can. This will take out all the on-ship installations fast and easy, but you will likely take more damage and unlikely to get more power ups since many fighters fly above you. Just keep moving left and right to avoid cannons and rockets. Another strategy is to fly at the fighters’ level and when you see the on-ship installations, dive down to shoot. This way you get to keep many power ups but it’s harder to control and aim at the on-ship targets. Regardless how you play your levels, the game controls give you that flexibility.

The sound effects are plentiful and music track is engaging. You will hear the explosion and gun firing effects. The on-going background music is similar to many fast-paced flight-shooting games and is nice addition to the event-correlated sound effects. The game takes about 4MB memory and runs fast and smooth on an iPAQ 3900 device. I have, however, experienced some slow downs on a Toshiba e310. The performance will improve if you turn off the Particle FX in the game. For your Z heads, look to Eon Games for the Linux version, which is coming soon.

I can’t wait for the day when flight games on the Pocket PC have 12 speed boosters or swoop down at the ground to cause landslides. For now, Interstellar Flames should be plenty good enough to keep you busy!

Playing Hints and Tips
Fly low to get the on-ship gunners. If you see two of them, take out one immediately as their crossfire will sure damage you badly if not kill you. The fighters always carry some goodies; if you are running low on life or need better weapons, kill the fighters to collect them. Take out the launch pads when you see them, watch out for the low flying fighters as you shoot at the pads. When you see the low flying green suicide fighters, keep away at all cost!

Interstellar Flamescreen shot

nterstellar Flamescreen shot

Pocket PC
Zaurus SL-5500


Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics Plenty of creativity that shows through the 3D graphics at consistent fps, design style and unique environment.
Sound Good selection of sound effects, the background music is engaging and fits the theme of the game.
Fun Meter If you are not a flight-shooting fan, you will be attracted to the visuals. If you are a hardcore flight shooter, you will have fun and plenty of it.
Addictivity I’m not going to let the game go until I beat the developer’s high score!

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