Don't be suckered in by the game title - Navy Commander is a take on the classic paper and pencil game Battleship (or board game for all you '80s kids) and there's very little commanding involved.
The basic premise is simple, beginning with selecting a grid size from three options: 10x10, 15x15 or 20x20. While the 10x10 size is displayed in full, any larger grid must be scrolled to view the entire play area. The grid size selected denotes the maximum amount of ships and special items allowed, with a few custom ranges available in-between. You can limit the time per turn in order to force the gameplay to progress faster, as well as toggle special items and animations. After choosing a nice bright colour for your fleet (as any proper navy commander will tell you, it's important to stand out so your enemy can hit you easily) it's time to hit the waves.
The touch screen displays the game grid while the top screen is reserved for a few visual flourishes, but nothing imperative to the gameplay. At the beginning of each game, the player is presented with a random layout of their fleet, with ships slotted into the grid either vertically or horizontally. Each ship type (of which there are five) takes up a set number of 'cells' on the grid. The Patrol Boat is the smallest at two cells long, while the Aircraft Carrier takes up the most space, weighing in at five cells. If you're not happy with the random layout provided, you can re-position and rotate any ships or activate the handy randomiser button which mixes the fleet up completely. Some would argue there is a trick in arranging the fleet strategically to fool your opponent, however guesswork together with basic deduction will prevail in most cases. Re-arranging can provide the player with a tiny element of emotional attachment to their fleet, making any losses seem a little more personal. Bear in mind once you have selected the starting locations for your fleet, they can never move again. It seems all ships have to be permanently anchored when at war.
So you've set up your grid and positioned your fleet, your opponent has done the same. Now the excitement begins right? Wrong. A turn involves blindly selecting a cell to target in the hope that it contains a section of any opponent ships, which are invisible until struck. Victory is achieved by locating ships and destroying them through deduction of hits and misses. Hitting the fire button activates a rudimentary animation of a missile flying over the sea surface on the top screen. If it's a miss, a red cross fills the cell. If it's a hit, a green circle. Gain a hit and on your next turn you can make a best guess which way you think the ship is laying and aim for the appropriate adjacent cell. It's a process of elimination which hopefully finalises in the ship being 'sunk' and its full appearance on the grid. You and your opponent proceed to take it in turns to continue guessing the locations of each other's fleet until the game ends when either side has no ships left.
Added into the mix are limited use special items. Some are hidden on the grid in chests which can be uncovered by hitting a correct cell, but most games start with a selection gifted to each player. The powerful 'Rocket Pack' takes out a huge cross of the grid rather than a single cell and is useful if you think you're onto a battleship sized take-down. 'Double Attack' does exactly what it says on the tin and lets you take two turns in a row. The final two items are used to reveal what specific cells contain. The special items add a modicum of strategy, but nothing particularly game-changing.
There are difficulty levels for the CPU player, each step up increasing the CPU 'guesses' to becoming ridiculously accurate and your fleet being decimated faster than the luckiest human on earth ever could. Unfortunately, there's no campaign mode, or missions, or indeed anything else of note. Just set up and play a single game.
Graphically, there's practically nothing other than a grid and few little animations (presented in not-too-good stereoscopic 3D that thankfully can be switched off) There's also a single tune that plays throughout, but it gets old fast.
Navy Commander's one saving grace (possibly) is multiplayer. You can play two players on a single 3DS (pass and play) or download play with a single copy of the game. But even with a human opponent, the experience feels drawn out, with matches taking far too long to play.
In summary, this is a cheap, low-budget, no-frills Battleship clone. It may perhaps be decent for playing with non-gamers or really hardcore Battleship fans, but for most of us it's a drab, dull experience where the most fun to be had is shouting the classic line "You sunk my Battleship!" at every appropriate occasion. Let this one sink into the depths, never to be resurrected.