Firebird's gift for timing is impeccable. Just when all the fuss has died down and everyone's almost forgotten about Haley's Comet out comes Firebird with The Comet Game. Not only that but Haley's Comet serves only as an excuse for a space arcade bash.
A manned space flight is on its way to the comet. Why? Well here's where Firebird really have gone doolally. Apparently the comet's tail is made up of germ bags, full of yukky disease, which are threatening to contaminate the Earth as the comet shoots past. And the astronaut is on a mission to save the world from this great infection. Being a longish trip the astronaut is being kept in suspended animation.
The object of the game is to control the space craft's on-board computer during the flight and keep its human cargo alive. Attention must be given to four tasks: keeping up the ship's defences, maintaining communications with Earth, a bit of self-examination to keep your computer system running sweetly, and, most importantly, the coffee machine mustn't be allowed to get out of control.
The easiest job is correcting the bugs within the computer - a taks called Computer Argument. A column of LEDs - displayed on the left of the screen - must be matched with a pattern of lights on your circuit, displayed on the right.
For some reason, unknown to either us or Firebird, your ship is prone to missile attack. When the warning is given the screen turns black and your ship - which looks like a midget egg timer - is displayed at its centre.
The missiles approach it from the sides of the screen, leaving white trails behind them (vapour trails in a vacuum?) move the cursor to the head of each trail and press fire. The ship shoots photon torpedoes towards the cross hair and destroys any missiles in its path.
As you get nearer the comet the germ bags in its tail begin to attack your life support systems. They tumble around the screen like huge chunks of coal while you try to get your gun centred. The laser beam bores into the soft centres of the bags, spilling their puss-filled contents harmlessly into space. Cute it ain't.
There are several levels of bag destruction. As you get closer to the comet the number of bags you have to destroy increases by a factor of two every time you encounter them. They also move more rapidly as the level of difficulty increases. Don't move the cursor around too much when there are more than three bags. Keep pressing fire and you are bound to hit one of them.
All the time you also have to handle the communications antenna it needs continual readjustment and you must point it in the direction from which the signal from your command base - back on earth - comes in strongest.
The upper part of the display shows the circular dish of the antenna which pans left and right as you move the joystick in the corresponding direction.
The final, and most complex, task is coffee making. The human needs liquid refreshment during suspended animation to stay alive so you must keep the coffee making process going.
The coffee machine looks like a modern office dispenser. First, you've got to grind the coffee, put it into the pot and fill it with water - H20. You must then inject it into the human's system and keep the whole process ticking over.
A series of gauges show how well each of the tasks is being performed but the only one you have to worry about is the life support gauge. If the reading drops below halfway on the thermometer-type gauge your charge has had it and the game is over. You might also keep an eye on the P gauge. When its reading reaches the top of the gauge the human's bladder explodes. That's not good.
If you survive the onslaught of missiles, faulty circuits and exploding bladders the ship will enter the vicinity of the comet where the 3D graphics get pretty nifty and the germ bags get really serious. It's all over pretty quickly but it you are used to 3D shoot 'em ups you will be on home ground.
What I can't understand is: if the computer is so intelligent why can't it shoot down the germ bags at the comet's core and drink the coffee?
The 3D effects are good but the action is predictable.
Joysticks: Kempston, Sinclair