Treasure Planet: Battle of Procyon Review (PC)

The days of skipping over any games with a Disney logo on the shelves in your local game store, as they are “only for kids” are fast disappearing. Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon is their latest game & is definitely aimed at an older market - indeed, the fact that Barking Dog Studios, the developers of the superb follow up to Homeworld :- Cataclysm are involved should be enough to make anyone sit up & take notice.

As you may have gathered from the title, the game is based on Disney’s latest cartoon class, Treasure Planet, and is set some 5 years after the events in the film. You play the part of Jim Hawkins and guide him along the way from cadet school onwards as he uncovers sinister plots, meets old friends & enemies and generally develops his career within the navy

Although Barking Dog have developed the game, this is no Homeworld, or indeed anything like it - “It’s space Jim, but not as we know it”. The whole ethos of outer space has been given a delightful Disney twist, so instead of piloting a high tech spacecraft, bristling with ultra modern weapons, you find yourself controlling what appears to be a sailing ship through a beautifully rendered space sea, complete with all sorts of inhabitants from fish to dragons, islands complete with settlements, trees etc as well as a goodly collection of black holes & asteroid belts.

There is no micromanagement involved here (which makes a pleasant change) - as Jim achieves promotion, so his ‘flagship’ changes for a better model, whilst also keeping command of his old ship(s). An interesting difference here is that, although you can order other ships in your squadron about, how they go about following your orders is entirely down to the captain of that ship.

The ships look and maneuver exactly as a sailing ship would (no need of tacking though - rocket powered). The tutorials instruct you in detail just how to move your ship around - as you plot your course & waypoints, the actual course followed is laid out in front of you so you can skillfully plot your way through archipelagos in one easy hit. Changing speed directly affects the movement of your ship - the slower it goes, the tighter it turns (and the easier it is to be hit) so battles tend to involve a fair amount of speed & course changes. Bearing in mind you are in a ship with mainly fixed position guns, maneuvering to use your broadsides to best effect can be very tricky & frustrating, although you do have a panic button to fire everything at once in all directions. A word of warning here though - your own fire can (& often does) damage other ships in your squadron - so be careful of where you are aiming!

The graphics are superb, as you would expect from Disney. Ships are finely detailed and you can zoom right in to see any damage and target your guns at those spots. Camera control is fluent, but not fully 3D - you cannot look under ships etc (but not really necessary as the game, though set in a 3D arena, actually plays as a 2D game). Lighting is nicely handled and all the special effects such as meteor storms, schools of fish / whales look just that, special.

Sound for the game is marvelous - all the voices are nicely done and while there are no speech animations as such, you soon realize they are not necessary. The music enhances the overall feel of the game, allowing you to totally immerse yourself in a Disney experience whilst a quick change of pace & superb battle sounds serve to soon alert you to any impending danger.

There is also multiplayer support allowing play against other players via LAN or Internet, as well as 2 skirmish modes with free and scripted scenarios that can be utilised to hone your battle skills.

The only minor niggles I have with the game are that, whilst being very easy to learn, it is at the same time very hard to actually master. Maneuvering your ship(s) round in the heat of battle is very tricky (although not in the least frustrating). The pace of the game is unfortunately fairly slow - plotting a course can only be done from the main screen and not via the map, which would have been very handy, and the speed of the ships, even at full ahead, is very slow, meaning you spend an awful lot of time just following your ship from one place to another.

To conclude, whereas the pace of the game could easily deter the instant action gamers, the graphics, sound & overall feel of the game more than make up for this. I think it will be a great hit with the sub 18 year old market, with a lot of older sales just due to the pedigree. As a first strategy style game for Disney, things can only get better - I would love to see a full 3D-style game using these ships.

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