Developer: Anonymous D Studios
Platform: Flash
Release Date: 6/7/11

     In this post-modern world, it seems like everyone's trying to smash things together that don't seem like they should ever be allowed in the same zip code. Like apples and oranges, or metalcore and auto-tune. So it was only a matter of time before someone realized there's never been a hybrid game based on 2-d space shooter and role-playing mechanics. In case the title didn't completely spoil that twist already, this is that game.
     So, the idea here is you've got levels with some shooting and bits with talking in between. The concept works and even has some moments of shining brilliance, but like any genre pioneer it has some significant flaws that hold it back from being as good as it could be.
     In Starwish you play as the rogue fighter pilot Deuce, member of a band of pirates who are sworn to fight the influence of (insert Galactic Federation here)... wait, this just in, it's actually called the Galactic Federation.

     As you might have gathered, this game isn't exactly breaking any new storytelling ground. Just about every trope you can think of is here: multiple characters with missing/dead parents, an ensemble of wacky characters, and plot twists galore.

     Yet, something stops me from blasting it for being a fairly predictable RPG plot: the writing. The exposition isn't the best, but the dialogue between characters is really good. The cafe section, where you can talk to the other crew members between missions, has some hilarious banter.  Barring a few cringe-worthy lines and typos near the end, it's obvious the game was written with love.
     As it happens, the shooting is in almost the exact same situation as the writing. There are some really cool aspects to the combat, like the ability to switch between any of 12 weapon types on the fly and the overdrive ability, which is a godsend in tough spots. But that doesn't excuse the maze levels, which are frustrating because getting stuck behind a wall leads to instant death, and very few weapons have the ability to pierce through solid objects to kill the foes waiting on the other side.

     The music in Starwish deserves special mention for being amazing. The general combat and boss music will get old after a little while, but every character has their own theme that fits their mood perfectly, and the entire soundtrack is available for download separately if you're interested.

     Flawed though Starwish was, I'm really looking forward to seeing future titles from Anonymous D. I feel like there's a lot of potential here that could be refined into something amazing, and I enjoyed the characters enough that I'd like to see them again at some point.

                                                           Score: 8/10

     And now, for a new segment that I'm calling pro tip corner! While playing Starwish, I came across some useful info that I'd like to share with any of my readers who go on to play it. I may not do this with every game I review, but I'll try to do it when I've got a few tips up my sleeve.

 - Your character build should reflect how much you're planning on playing. If you're just going to rush through the game, offense and defense with health mods are your best bet. But, if you're going to repeat levels and go for the no death achievement, raise your intelligence and luck instead to increase the exp and moola payouts, and shield mods for the regeneration.

 - For the special abilities, insurance is overrated. Getting all of the secondary powerups along with power critical makes your missiles do incredible damage and have a wide range, which is great for bosses.

 - With weapons, use spread through most levels as soon as you can get it and laser against most bosses. This applies until you get the wave cannon, at which point you should use that and little else.

 - If you want a lot of character endings, keep in mind that there's a time limit before they'll appear again after talking to them in the cafe and most of them have special requirements to talk to them later in the game. To get an ending, you have to talk to them 9 times total. There's even a bonus for anyone brave enough to try for all of them in a single playthrough (I did), though I won't spoil it here.

Swig: None.  3 day cooldown.
Mare: None. 4 day cooldown.
Tessa: Buy mods. 3 day cooldown.
Deadeye: Upgrade weapons. 3 day cooldown.
Johnny: Have unspent money. Because of this, go to the cafe before you buy your upgrades each day. 3 day cooldown.
Ginny: Don't die, except for the Firebolt fight at the beginning. Also, you have to have the 9th conversation on or before day 19. After that conversation, you're free to bite the dust as much as you like. 2 day cooldown.
(Bonus character that I won't spoil): You have to play on hard mode. Also, you need a certain number of enemy kills, but if you've been repeating levels much that won't be a problem. No cooldown.

Here's a cafe walkthrough that I used:
Day 1 : Mare and Deadeye
Day 2: Swig and Tessa
Day 3: Johnny and Ginny
Day 4: Deadeye
Day 5: Mare and Tessa
Day 6: Swig and Ginny
Day 7: Johnny and Deadeye
Day 8: Ginny and Tessa
Day 9: Swig and Mare
Day 10: Ginny and Johnny
Day 11: Deadeye and Tessa
Day 12: Ginny and Swig
Day 13: Johnny and Mare
Day 14: Ginny and Deadeye
Day 15: Tessa and Swig
Day 16: Ginny and Johnny
Day 17: Mare and Deadeye
Day 18: Ginny and Tessa (This way, you're free to die after day 18)
Day 19: Swig and Johnny
Day 20: Deadeye
Day 21: Mare and Tessa
Day 22: Swig and Johnny
Day 23: Deadeye and ---
Day 24: Tessa and ---
Day 25: Mare and ---
Day 26: Swig and ---
Day 27: ---
Day 28: ---
Day 29: Mare and ---
Day 30: Johnny and ---

     This has been the Freeware Fanatic, who refuses to say that he'll be posting more often in favor of just proving it instead. Also, if you've got stuff to get done, don't buy Just Cause 2. Derailed me like nobody's business.


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