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Space Pirates
game: Space Pirates
two star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Digital Leisure
developer: American Lasergames
date posted: 12:00 AM Mon Aug 1st, 2005
last revision: 12:43 PM Thu Aug 18th, 2005

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Click to read.Space Pirates is another release in Digital Leisure\'s ongoing project to port the niche genre of laserdisc games to DVD. These games were released by a variety of companies throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, but American Lasergames developed some of the best known titles, including Mad Dog McCree and Drug Wars, both of which are already available in newly ported DVD format. American Lasergames continued to publish video-based videogames for systems like 3DO, Phillips CD-I, and Sega CD in the early 1990s. In many ways, these titles demonstrate why gaming took a decidedly different direction after these experiments. This period of gaming history is often known as the first great epoch of Hollywood crossovers, and it is generally regarded as a dark time.

These games are not for everyone. They have a decidedly dated and B? quality video vibe to them that some people can\'t stand at all. However, I think that was more of an issue five years ago when we started receiving copies of Digital Leisure titles for review. The Oughties have built into Eighties retro style, and bands like VHS or Beta dominate the alternative video shows that all the cool kids Tivo with videos that would be totally at home on VH1 Classics. All of this cultural nostalgia (to say nothing of the popularity of retro gaming and classic videogame emulation) means that Digital Leisure\'s laserdisc game reissues could be the hippest thing to hit your Xbox since XBMC+MAME. If you can get into the spotty gameplay, or play it on a system where it works well, if you can enjoy the pre-Sci-Fi Channel dialogue and Video Toaster special effects. If you can embrace the overly bright look of legacy Betamax SP equipment, then you might really enjoy these games.

Space Pirates is another great example of B-gaming goofiness. It has a vibe very much like a low-budget Ice Pirates, which is not a film remembered for its cinemagraphic quality. You are a disembodied Star Ranger, helping to stop a rampaging crew of treacherous space pirates and rescue the innocent space settlers and their sultry space queen. Mostly your job is to shoot the pirates and not the settlers. Space Pirates was meant to be played with a light gun. The lack of a light gun on most home DVD players, PCs, and console systems certainly doesn\'t help the game. Performance varies widely according to what system you are playing on. Playing on a PC or Mac with a mouse is not a bad experience at all, and the game is quite easy to walkthrough. Playing on console systems is likewise pretty good; the game controller is decent, and disc read times are good. But playing these games on most home DVD players is a terrible experience. The controllers on many DVD players lag slightly, making for mushy movement of your aiming reticule. The seek times on most DVD players are slow, too, so the gameplay is punctuated by stuttering video.

Space Pirates does a better job than other American Lasergames titles of varying gameplay a bit. There are segments where you are given a clue in the dialogue of which switch to shoot or baddie to target first. It bears noting, but that doesn\'t really significantly improve gameplay. This is a single-button game, and the focus is obviously on shooting and seeing movie segments. Especially given the campiness of the whole game, Space Pirates is good enough to entertain you for a run through it. On a computer or console system, that run will be very short. These are not movie-length games at all. And in the end, the brevity of the whole thing will probably be the final nail in the Space Pirates coffin for most folks.

Game history or retro gaming buffs should definitely check out Space Pirates. These games should form a corner of any complete game collection, and they crossover well to the campy cult film crowd. In fact, playing through Space Pirates makes me wonder why nobody is experimenting in this area at all anymore. Given much larger media content sizes (up to 9GB on Xbox or PS2), much longer video-videogame experiences could be created, and live combinations of video and digital graphics doesn\'t seem so out of reach. Check out some of these old laserdisc games and see if you don\'t agree.

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