Some might argue that real-time strategy games are not conducive to portable gaming, which is a fair argument given the genre's time-consuming gameplay. Thanks to advances such as quick saves and more action-oriented pacing, though, handheld RTS games have become a viable proposition. It's unfortunate, then, that Command and Destroy features none of the advances that are now considerer standard. This game might have held its own in 1995, but it's downright crusty in 2008.
The story, told through scrolling text punctuated by pictures straight out of a high school art class, is a classic alien-invasion tale. The game leaves it up to you to defend Earth as the humans or enslave it as the aliens. Both sides have similar loadouts, though it's a bit easier to play as the aliens because their high-tech gadgetry cuts out a few steps when it comes to resource gathering.
There are a total of 24 missions in the game, with 12 for each faction. Each drawn-out level gives you garden variety primary and secondary objectives, which include such things as killing all the enemies, destroying bases, building resources, and completing tasks with only a couple of units at your disposal. Those familiar with the genre should feel right at home. Newcomers, on the other hand, might have a bit of trouble because there is no tutorial or introduction. The game doesn't throw too much at you too fast, but figuring out the gameplay and poor controls without instruction is tough. A read-through of the lengthy manual is almost required.
If any system can emulate the mouse and keyboard control in an RTS game, it would be the DS, which is why it's too bad that Command and Destroy botches the controls. There are no onscreen buttons to switch between the different cursors, so instead of relying primarily on the touch screen, the game requires use of both the D pad and face buttons, which results in awkward stylus juggling. The game tries to mimic the feel of a mouse by letting you drag the stylus to select an entire squad or tap on individual commandos, but the selector is often unresponsive. Repeating your commands only makes the stylus juggling worse; it's a vicious cycle of annoyance. Combined with the drawn-out missions, the poor controls help give the game a sluggish feel.
The biggest mark against Command and Destroy is its save system. With missions that can last up to an hour and a pace slower than a Sunday evening drive, it's absurd that the game relies on passwords to save your progress. That means if you're interested in playing Command and Destroy over more than one session, you'll need to keep a pencil and paper handy. If you have a friend with the game and a few hours to kill, you could play a slow deathmatch or two. Or you could do something more exciting, like shred documents or watch a screensaver.
Command and Destroy started out as a Gameboy Advance game, and it shows. You'll spend a lot of time squinting at your DS screen because many of the troops and vehicles are hard to tell apart. Because there's no zoom feature, you'll often select the wrong troop or vehicle for the job. The sound is as forgettable as the visuals. Your troops bark garbled replies to your commands while guns sound tinny and tiny. The random music that pops up during combat also gets old fast.
The one word that will likely buzz through your mind when playing Command and Destroy is generic. From the plain box art and throwaway story to the archaic save system and poor controls, everything about Command and Destroy has been done before--but better. The DS may not be a hotbed of RTS action, but you should still skip Command & Destroy, even if you find a discarded copy of the game lying on the sidewalk.