I have to admit – I don’t go to the arcade as much anymore. It’s just not as fun as it was when I was growing up in the 1980’s. There’s very little originality and a lot of overlap in the game selection these days. However, I’ll occasionally step into a Dave and Busters to check out the scene.
One of my favorite arcade games growing up was Afterburner (a flight simulator game that moved your seat with the action). Another was the classic wireframe Star Wars game that allowed you to attack the Death Star over and over again while TIE Fighters and turrets fired big asterisks as you. As someone who loved combat aircraft and Star Wars as a kid, I took my in-game missions seriously.
On one of my recent arcade drop-ins I found a combat simulator that felt like playing a game inside a mini IMAX theater (the ones where the screen engulfs you). It was a little chaotic, but one of the more fun video game experiences I’ve had in some time. Imagine my excitement when I heard that they were making a Star Wars version of this game!
So, this week I made a highly anticipated PLANNED trip to Dave and Busters to try out the Star Wars Battle Pod. When I got into the pod, I noticed that there were 5 levels and I would have to swipe my game card to play each one. As I got ready to take flight, I noticed a button that allowed you to change view. This basically gives you a completely open wide screen, or a cockpit-style view. Then it’s time to get into the action!
THE BATTLE OF YAVIN – DEATH STAR RUN
From the start, this game does everything right in getting your Star Wars fandom blood pumping. You take off from the hanger bay with other X-Wing pilots. Then, that very familiar music from Episode IV plays as you put your s-foils in attack position. Next thing you know, you are fighting TIE Fighters, racing through the trenches, shooting at Darth Vader and taking a shot at the exhaust port. It’s the EASY/starting level, so it’s not hard to make that one-in-a-million shot. You can sleep better knowing that I made such a shot and watched the Death Star go BOOM.
Then I had to swipe the card again.
THE BATTLE OF HOTH
You are piloting a Snow Speeder in this level, but you’re not simply trying to take down AT-ATs. Instead, you are once again chasing TIEs through the Hoth terrain as you attempt to protect the Rebel Transports that are evacuating the planet. Towards the end of this run, you do get to finish off a downed AT-AT before trying to destroy a well armored & pesky TIE Interceptor that is attacking a transport. If you don’t take him out quickly, he burns the ship down and you are left to imagine that voice in The Empire Strikes Back Saying, “The second transport is aw…um…no…nevermind!” I tried this level three times and couldn’t take down that Interceptor! Oh well, it’s a reason to go back and play again.
And…swipe the card.
THE BATTLE OF ENDOR
Now you’re on a speeder bike racing through the forest moon of Endor. This is one of my favorite missions. You are racing full speed through the forest, chasing Scout Troopers, driving through Ewok Villages, throwing troopers off your bike and attacking an AT-ST so that Han and company can blow up the shield generator.
I took out the troops, blew up the AT-ST and the generator was history before all the Ewoks on the planet could blink.
Then…yep, you guessed it – had to swipe the card to continue.
ATTACKING DEATH STAR II
This time, you’re in the Millennium Falcon as you lead the attack on the second Death Star. Again, there’s lots of familiar music and sounds (like Lando talking and the fully armed and operational battle station blowing stuff up around you). I successfully navigated my way into the Death Star and bolted out of it with a “Yeeeea-hah!” (Lando in-game, not me personally) as it detonated over the Endor skies.
One level left! Might as well swipe the card again.
DARTH VADER’S REVENGE
In what is definitely the most clever level of the game, you are in Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter as you hunt down Han Solo and the remaining rebels after they destroyed your battle station (that wasn’t even fully paid off yet). You are also trying to keep the rebels from picking up a super laser cannon left over from the Death Star’s destruction. This is listed as the most difficult level and it was indeed challenging. Han Solo whipped my ship pretty good just to prove how much of a noob I was. I didn’t complete the mission, but it too gives me something to shoot for next time.
The overall experience was a lot of fun. The motion sensation was awesome in the beginning, but I didn’t notice it as much when my eyes stayed focused on the targets. It took a while figuring out the best strategies for taking out targets (including when to speed up and slow down). I was used to some simulators where it was best to slow down to make turns or not overrun targets, whereas here, it’s good to keep your speed up so you can have an easier time pounding a target.
Like the combat aircraft simulator, the action is so chaotic, you may not always be looking at the right place at times, and it can create some targeting challenges. The only thing that would have made it better is if it too had a seat that moved with the action. However, at the end of the day, I kept playing (as demonstrated) and I plan to go back to the arcade to play some more.
The only thing left to think about is what my 10 year-old self would have thought of this. I think it’s safe to say they’d still be trying to get me out of the arcade all these years later.