Easy to learn
Controls somewhat difficult
Menus hard to use effectively
Most games usually fall under one genre. Many games incorporate some limited aspects of other genres, but few games combine two genres into one solid game. Gate 88 is one of those few; it is a game where action is involved in the gameplay as much as strategy. In Gate 88, you fly a small space ship, and your job is to protect your command center. From your ship you control base construction, research and development, defense, and can also coordinate attacks on other enemies. All this while flying your ship against enemy assault forces and bases.
Your ship has the ability to build structures, which are vital to the operation of your base. Factories increase the rate of resource production, which is what you use to build things. Research stations conduct research, shipyards build and hold fighters and bombers, and turrets provide stationary defense. In addition, you may also build signal stations to provide better information about your enemy forces. Most structures need to be powered, so you also have to build energy generators to provide energy. If your ship is destroyed, you are respawned at your command center after a brief delay. Gate 88 applies the laws of physics to your ship's movement, and you can even move structures around just by ramming them with your ship (which deals no damage to you or the object), which may have some strategic merit. Your ship uses the directional keys to move around, and can break by pressing the down key twice (though it isn't easy to pull off; if you press too slowly, the game will move your ship in reverse).
In Gate 88, you really can't strike out on your own to defeat the enemy (unless your opponent is really bad) as you will just be making a suicide run. The best way to assault an enemy base is to coordinate an assault on the enemy base and fight alongside your fighters and bombers. While your fighters and bombers are attacking, you can use the opportunity to fly around and conduct your own surgical strikes with your ship to make your squadrons' work easier. Unfortunately, getting your squadrons to engage the enemy is easier said than done. You must fly to the area you want your fighters and bombers to attack and paint the location your personal ship is on; getting a good target point may involve penetrating into the enemy's defenses, which means attracting fighters or taking turret fire. Once the target area is designated, you may order your forces to engage. As you are limited in the number of a certain type of buildings you may deploy, you will only have no more than a handful of shipyards to command; each shipyard holds five fighters or bombers depending on the type of shipyard.
Research generally affects your own ship directly. You can upgrade your ship's speed, firing rate, damage threshold, and number of main cannons it carries, though some research is required to construct certain turrets. Also, you can research weapon enhancements that serve different purposes. Heavy cannons allow you to deal more damage to enemy structures, regen cannon lets you restore friendly units and buildings, and stealth makes friendly ships difficult for enemies to spot.
While the prospect of a game where you manage base resources, conduct research, and order fighter/bomber raids while flying around and destroying enemy targets sounds good on paper, Gate 88 isn't exactly flawless. The menu system Gate 88 uses involves holding down the "a" key while pressing the directional key associated with the command you want to issue, but you lose some control over your ship while doing so. You could be in the middle of a massive swarm of enemy fighters (not uncommon in practice mode) or among the turrets of an enemy base, but you're virtually helpless until you can manage to order your fighters to come out of spacedock and engage the enemies, as you and your [maximum of] five cannons aren't going to do too much to the enemy. Gate 88 tries to make up for this with hotkeys, but there are so many to learn; it takes a lot of patience and memorizing in order to use the hotkeys effectively (though in doing so, you'll greatly improve your playing ability).
Gate 88 does not have single player campaigns or scenarios of any kind, but it does have a practice mode. In the practice mode, you are pitted against enemy forces that are randomly generated on the map. After some time, a new enemy base is generated (the intervals may be set before entering practice mode), and will engage your base by sending out fighters and bombers. At first, the attack runs can be contained by yourself with a reserve of missile turrets, but eventually you'll need to build a shipyard and order fighter squadrons to help protect your base. The objective of the practice mode is to last as long as possible before being overrun by the enemy. If you leave a base alone long enough, other bases will appear eventually, and you may be overwhelmed more quickly. All research is available to you, and is vital to your efforts.
Practice mode is good for learning the game and improving your ability to play Gate 88, but the real beauty is in the multiplayer. Practice mode gets tedious eventually as your enemies merely send waves after waves of fighters accompanied by bombers; the enemy bases are defended by turrets, but the enemy does not conduct his own research nor does he build any factories. Multiplayer allows you to play against intelligent opponents who have the same abilities at their disposal.
Review by: Triton
Safe for all ages
Windows 98/2000/ME/XP, Linux x86, or Mac OS X