I don’t know my robot parrot’s real name in ‘Plundernauts’, today’s Free Game Of The Day, but as far as companions go, she’s great, and in my head her name is Kaylee, named after the spunky, handsy, frisky and bright engineer from the cult-classic sci-fi western TV show Firefly.
Plundernauts has a lot in common with “Firefly”; From pirates to ship design to salvaging parts to upgrading your junky ‘boat’ into something respectable. It’s ‘used space’ through and through. The cell-shaded graphics, sweeping orchestration, booming explosions, and razor sharp laser blasts set the tone expertly for this action/strategy space-combat game. It feels like high-seas adventure in the grandness of space.
While the tone’s “Firefly”, the gameplay is all ‘Star Trek: StarFleet Command’. ‘Command’ gave you control of a federation ship and had you juggle targeting arcs, engine output, crew management, and perform evasive maneuvers to blow Klingons and Romulans into space debris.
The ‘Command’ games were fun, but like most “Star Trek” titles, missed the forest for the trees. “Star Trek” is many things, but it is *not* exclusively about blowing enemy spaceships out of the water. StarFleet Command gave you the excitement, but none of the drama or philosophy the series was oft-praised for.
Plundernauts doesn’t give a flying Ferangi about philosophy or diplomacy, and as a result the tactical strategy of sliding your finger across a map to turn your ship juuustttt the right way in order to get off that one last torpedo shot, is enthralling. I’d argue it’s the best space combat game on mobile, and that includes ‘Galaxy On Fire 2 HD’.
The game avoids complex plotting, ensuring almost all your time spent with ‘Plundernauts’ involves preparing your ship for battle via upgrading your weapons and crew and technical modifications, or actually battling. The isometric perspective is perfect for mobile platforms, allowing players to focus more on maneuvering and tactics, and less on orientation, as a first-person combat sim likely would. The over-world map is set up a bit like ‘Star Fox’, and the game helpfully reminds you which planets and enemies you’ve conquered via little outpost flags.
For the price of absolutely nothing, you get a whole lot of everything in this here space adventure. Tactics, charm, excitement, strategy, and literally, an entire universe in your pocket.