Based on the board game of the same name, The Captain is Dead is an action-packed, turn-based, sci-fi survival game from Thunderbox Entertainment. Survival is probably a red herring; this game is designed to make you fail. Even on the easiest of settings, it’s excruciatingly difficult. You may end up hating it for this, but I found it addictive.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek blend of Star Trek parody and Douglas Adams comedy and it works well. So, perhaps today is a good day for your starship to blow up. Repeatedly.
The basic premise of the game is your Star Trek-like ship is attacked and on fire, your captain is dead, and you’ve got to get your jump core online to escape. The game starts with you selecting your crew from an available list of people, all with different abilities and powers that will enable you to do different things in the game such as skip alerts, repair subsystems and defeat enemies.
The game is turn-based so in each round, an alert will happen (this could be enemies beaming aboard, an attack on the shields, a parasite, a computer explosion etc.) and then you cycle through your selected crew. With the crew member selected you can perform a certain number of actions such as repairing what’s broken, repelling those intruders and of course, repairing the jump core. It’s important to manage your resources, and trade skills between crew so you can achieve tasks during your turn. This might sound a little complex, but the tutorial does wonders in taking you through the game mechanics and is recommended as a starting point.
There’s a handy side panel that can be used to quickly see how your ship is faring and what alerts are going to be coming up to help you strategise.
The Captain is Dead is designed to be your very own Kobayashi Maru, for non-Star Trek fans that’s an unwinnable situation, and the whole event will quickly descend into chaos as you frantically try and stay alive. Admittedly, that’s the game’s frustration and fun.
Graphics and Audio
The design of the ship, characters, and aliens are very stylised polygon art and it’s a visual delight to look at. The Captain is Dead will undoubtedly give you familiarity, but it’s easy to see the Star Trek references. The omnipotent alien teaching you in the tutorial is very much Q (dressed in the Judge outfit and talking about mon capitane!), the counsellor looks like Guinan and when you talk about the cyborg, it’s all about assimilation.
The game is well-drawn but simplistic, and the environments are fun, colourful if not a little busy at times. I didn’t run into any graphical glitches personally, so it all felt smooth. I will say this style isn’t for everyone. The simplistic nature of the designs, both in terms of the blocky nature and flat colours, will put people off.
In terms of audio, there is a fun poppy vibe which can feel a little repetitive, but thankfully the sounds of alarms and explosions will drown that out most of the time. In terms of dialogue, the narrator for the tutorial is well-acted but sadly the crew are lacking in dialogue lines and so that can also feel a little repetitive. While these may seem like negative points, I will say none of this truly impacted my enjoyment of the game.
Is The Captain is Dead a Good Game?
The Captain is Dead is frustrating and will make you want to warp 9 to the nearest black hole. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun. You will struggle to survive, but I can guarantee you’ll be resetting the game to try again. And again. And again. Like the best temporal loop episode of Star Trek, it’s the game that will keep on giving.