Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an action-adventure game that involves intergalactic battle, travelling across galaxies, and visiting a myriad of planets to fulfill certain objectives. There are several main characters in the game, but the way that the player chooses their character is unique as far as the Nintendo Switch goes.
I was provided with a starter pack for the purposes of this review. In that pack, I received a box that contained the game itself, an Arwing spaceship, two playable characters (the legendary Fox McCloud, and newcomer Mason Rana), and two weapons for the ship (Flamethrower and Frost Barrage). The starter pack also comes with a poster and a proprietary Joycon mount.
To play, you must equip your new Joycon mount with your Joycon controllers, as you would on the classic grip. Then, you choose your pilot. I chose Fox McCloud for most of my gameplay. Alumni of StarFox 64 academy will get a chuckle early on in the game when Peppy demands that you “Do a barrel roll!” during your first battle.
Once your pilot is equipped, it’s time to attach the ship. Whichever ship you choose is placed neatly over the pilot figure and snaps into place. Similarly, the weapons that you choose are snapped onto each wing. Everything can be removed and switched out any time during gameplay. Also, while my items were all tactile, real objects, there are digital version of every character, ship, and item that can be purchased in the eShop. And once you use a physical object, it is then stored as a digital object for future use (so you do have the option to play handheld after your first playthrough with every object).
From what I can gather, nearly every character that resides on the Equinox (the player’s mothership) is playable. However, I can say that I’m not a fan of locking characters behind paywalls, as is the case in most toys-to-life style games. There was one instance in the game where I came across an item box in the middle of space. My two weapons couldn’t open the item because they weren’t the right type of weapons. However, there was a weapon available for sale that I could have purchased to open the box then and there. I can only hope that the game’s overall story doesn’t rely on outside purchases to complete the game.
Aside from purchases, I did have a pretty great time with the game. Your character is essentially the ship. You travel by ship, you battle by ship, and you appear to communicate by ship. You can see your pilot’s face in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, but you never see your character outside of the space ship, aside from cut-scenes.
I explored a few planets, completed a few missions, and scanned a few of the resident species to see what I could discover. The carrying capacity of the ship was very limited, and I couldn’t exactly figure out where to access my inventory, which was a bit of a pain. Some of the items and plants that you find on different planets can be sold for cash or used to upgrade certain stations that you come across. Also, while the planets were fun to explore, a lot of them had similar layouts and animal compositions. I’m hopeful that they’ll start to vary more as the game goes on.
The most common enemy that you’ll battle throughout Starlink: Battle for Atlas is the Legion, run by an aggressive ruler named Grax. In the beginning of the game, Grax kidnaps the Equinox’s captain in order to further his campaign to strengthen the Legion. The Star Fox team, who had been on the hunt for Star Wolf, happen to stumble across this kidnapping as it’s happening and offer to help. Right from the get-go, Fox ingratiates himself with the Equinox’s team, and both factions decide to help one another.
All told, Starlink: Battle for Atlas seems like a fun game for kids. The ship building and customization is a fun activity to weave into a game, and it’s definitely something that I would have loved when I was a kid. The story-line also caters toward a younger audience, where some of the characters are set up as clear comic relief. The main antagonist, while a little spooky, is balanced by his cartoonish elements. I would recommend getting this game, just be wary of the add-ons and upgrade purchases, as I could see the price point ratcheting up rather quickly.
The Starter Pack for Starlink: Battle for Atlas is available on PS4, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch for €69.99 at Smyths Toys and other retailers.