Review: Celestial Navigator
If you've ever fantasised about blasting off into space and saving the the world, then Celestial Navigator might be the game for you. Be warned though, there's a rather twisted plot quirk. You play the game as a number of pilots from a world of Teddy Bears! Even more twisted is that you have to embark on a series of ill-fated missions where each Teddy inevitably dies. If you have the right stuff to avoid astronomical obstacles, and the grit see countless Teddies perish, then you might be who we're looking for...
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Ever since Celestial Navigator landed on my desk, it has been full of surprises. I can confirm that this is not an astronomy package, it is in fact a game; one which might have been better named Space Teddies!
Main menu and Star Wars homage
The story of the game tells that your home world is sitting in the path of an oncoming black hole. The mission objective is that a one of your pilot Teddies has to launch into space, find the black hole and “discover its secrets”. That's all you're told, you're left to work out the rest for yourself!
Celestial Navigator help pages
The game's help pages describe the two ways that your pilot can die, which are: having the ship be destroyed, or running out of Oxygen. What isn't explained is that both of these things happen very quickly on the first few attempted launches! To launch the ship you are required to tap the screen to stop an oscillating slider, hopefully catching it in the centre. Catching it too far to either side means that you launch with low Oxygen. Even launching with maximum Oxygen doesn't give you much flight time before the Teddy dies though! Initially, this was very frustrating, as if I was being set up to fail.
Launching the ship and running out of Oxygen
This means that you are required to take a deep breath and use your brain to figure out what is going on. You soon learn that each ill fated mission isn't a failure, each mission is a step to the next. While flying through space, there is a faint red circle around the ship, this is a magnetic field for pulling in coins floating around in space. Yes, I know, this is getting stranger by the minute, but BEAR with me :-)
Spot the faint red circle for scooping up pennies from heaven!
The coins collected in each mission can be put toward purchasing both ship upgrades and pilot promotions for subsequent missions. The possible ship upgrades are as follows: the magnetic field range can be upgraded, the ship's manoeuvring can improved, the hull can be beefed up, and shield power can be boosted. Before each mission, there is a pool of nine pilots to choose from, all with varying levels of three characteristics: coin multiplier, Oxygen usage, and shield use efficiency. Spending money to promote a bear randomly increases its abilities.
Upgrading the ship and choosing a pilot
Once launched, there are only two things to control; manoeuvring side to side, controlled via touch screen or accelerometer, and activating a front-facing shield, controlled by touch. Manoeuvring is unlimited, but the shield is powered by a battery which frequently needs to recharge. In space, there are temporary power ups which can repair your hull, extend your magnetic field, replenish the O2 tanks, or boost the shield power. Another trick not mentioned in the help pages is that flying off the side of the screen warps you to the other side.
In the thick of the action!
The interesting thing about the game is that each mission is a stepping stone, which keeps you engaged, rather than feeling frustrated. That is, once you understand the process! The help pages could have allayed all the early frustration by properly explaining this. However, they read as if English is not the first language of the authors. Still, you soon begin wanting to play more missions, so as to save up for the next upgrade.
Farewell letters from your Space Teddies :-(
The other aspect that creates emotional engagement is the anthropomorphism placed on the pilots. Not only are they great big cute Teddy Bears, but they all have a biography describing their prior life. The biggest emotional impact comes when they die, as they each have a 'final' message for their loved ones for you to read. This is both funny and a little heart wrenching, depending on your sensitivity level.
My only technical complaint with the game is that the manoeuvring controls are not responsive enough. As booster upgrades are purchased, there is a increasingly noticeable acceleration profile, but making fine movements is still tricky.
David Gilson for All About Symbian, 22nd May 2011.
Reviewed by David Gilson at