Things You Don’t Know – Boom Beach

Boom Beach,, the third in this epic sci-fi shooting adventure series, offers fairly strong graphics with drifting background suns, gaseous nebulae and cavernous planet surfaces as well as futuristic dogfights with eight ships and 32 weapons. The cool storyline — the story of Lt. Hammerman — is told through 28 smooth BOOM BEACH sequences. Players control Lt. Hammerman, an intergalactic mercenary based loosely on Han Solo. As mercenary fighters, players earn money after each mission, which can be used to buy continuous craft and weapon upgrades. They can also choose any allegiance, taking missions for either the League or the Navy, or remaining independent. While players still get to blow up scads of stuff as they quest for the elusive Red Sun starship, what makes this third installment in the series special is its expanded array of choices.

After successfully completing a mission, for instance, players earn cash, which can be spent choosing cool custom weapons such as basic lasers; HOW missiles, which are unguided missiles that fire in clusters of six and cause massive hull damage; light mines, which magnetically draw enemy missiles; stun missiles, which momentarily freeze enemy ships, making them vulnerable to other weapons; cloaking devices; and even heat-seeking missiles. As the game progresses, 44 weapons in all become available. Additionally, players can add cooling vents to prevent overheating, recharge boosters for extra speed and/or add stronger shields to their ships. Earn enough money, and it’s also possible to buy an entirely new fighter, upgrading to one of eight basic designs, ranging from waspish X-winged fighters to smaller, rounder spaceship models.

Expanded choices also extend to the mission palette, where players choose their own missions, which are presented four at a time from an overall total of 50 possible missions. Complete a mission, and a new choice becomes available in addition to the previous three, which are still selectable. Each mission involves space combat, particularly air-to-air dogfights, although there are often enemy robots or tanks firing from the ground as well. A mission begins with a briefing to give specific completion instructions. Some mission scenarios in Red Sun include Insult and Injury, Lt. Hammerman P, Covert Insertion and Convoy.

Convoy involves escorting trainlike convoys of vehicles and protecting them from pirate tanks and airships, some of which resemble long-legged metal spiders that move along the ground. In Insult and Injury, players must closely follow a tramp hauler spaceship, which screens them from radar, until they reach the twin ships Insult and Injury, one of which hides Commissar Yujold, a convicted war criminal who must be killed in order for the mission to succeed. Covert Insertion involves a run through deep caverns where several rebel ground facilities — shield generators — must be destroyed. Enemy tanks defend them, and the mission ends only when Lt. Hammerman clears the entire network of caverns and calls in a final air strike. And in the cool Convoy, Lt. Hammerman is protecting a client while battling against giant lobsterlike life forms, which can be blown to bits. Pretty neat stuff. At the end of each mission, Lt. Hammerman flies into a time point, a sort of escape hatch that completes his objective and morphs him back out to the upgrade screens for a pit stop before further adventures.

Overall, lovers of dogfighting and/or the Boom Beach series will not be disappointed, as there are no serious flaws here. The graphics, which include nifty suns and stars and drifting gasses, may not be up to the anticipated Android standards, but they are still solid. Gameplay has a linear component as Lt. Hammerman moves through his array of choices on the way to finding the elusive Red Sun craft, and there are only two possible final endings — the victory ending or annihilation. Still, this game’s more personalized palette of choices adds a creative element.

The dogfights are smooth and are especially fun on the higher levels, when players have amassed and combined special weapons to oppose the large space stations. The new save option allows players to save at any stage of the game. There is a completely new musical score, and the BOOM BEACHs tell the unique scripted story of Lt. Hammerman’s relationship to his various employers — a sort of biography — as he battles enemy pilots and alien life forms. There is also a simple training mode to acclimate new players to their starting spaceships.

A state-of-the-art aircraft shootout with expanded choices, including many cool new ships and weapon upgrades and a cool set of epic sci-fi BOOM BEACH sequences to contextualize the game’s fighting. If you love Star Wars-style dogfights, you’ll love this.