The Boing Boing games page just turned me onto Captain Forever, an awesome way to kill some time and entertain your dreams of becoming the next Buck Rogers. It’s everything you want in a flash game: easy to learn, tough to master, with addictive gameplay, and a unique sense of style.
First, the aesthetic is great. The whole interface is 80′s style DOS-command line retro. Gameplay is over a 2D plane (funny how space is flat in the future), and the instruction manual appears in block text ALL CAPS. You start with a bang — literally — as your ship is blown to smithereens, leaving only the command module intact. A helpful, WALL-E style junkbot flies itself over and then disintegrates, allowing you to cannibalize the modules of that ship to rebuild your own. Armed with a mix of girders, thrusters, engines, and a pulsing metallic heart, you begin your journey through the lawless realm of space.
The “build your own ship” function is the major draw. The first few enemies you run into are pushovers; it’s easy to blow them up and assimilate their components, Borg-style. But before too long, you are facing some tough decisions. The game’s flying physics require close attention. If your layout of thrusters and weight is unbalanced, then you won’t be able to fly straight, let alone fight. Thankfully, it’s easy to re-spec on the fly, just by clicking on a piece and using drag-and-drop to move it around. It doesn’t take long for enemies to start coming at you in waves, which makes quick modifications essential.
Before long, you move up from the entry-level Green enemies to the tougher Yellow and Red varieties. Not only are their girders and weapons tougher than yours, but their combat-focused design adds an extra layer of difficulty. And it’s here where ship design for your own rig becomes especially important. Just building a generic rocket ship is not going to cut it against these guys. You’ll face armadillo ships that can turn quickly and bring their guns to bear with frightening speed, or really nasty buggers loaded with guns that fire in 8 directions at once. And that’s when you wonder…what does it take to become Captain Forever?
Thankfully, even if your ship should be destroyed, all is not lost. The game keeps a running record of your best spec, and when you get blown up, it takes you to a separate screen with a picture of your saved layout and options to share via Facebook, Twitter, and email. There are other nice touches too. If you have a webcam, you can take a picture of your own face to make a mash-up Top Gun style fighter pilot helmet, which appears in the background as a ghostly overlay. The sound is perfect, too: a collection of blips, bloops, and garbled robot voices that make your trip to the future seem like a pleasant stroll down memory lane. If you have $20 burning a hole in your pocket you can also register for the full version, which unlocks a lot more content. Go check out Captain Forever — tell us what you think in the comments!