Andrew J. Glaister
1986
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

31,32
Chris Bourne

Halley's Comet is speeding towards mother Earth carrying lethal bacteria cap able of wiping out all forms of life, according to the inlay. The game is obviously set in seventy six years time when Halley's Comet makes its next visit, because a highly advanced space ship has been dispatched to destroy the deadly germs that live on it. (The game turned up long after the real comet had been and gone!) The screen shows a view through the cockpit window of the shuttle with the comet shimmering in the distance and the stars scrolling towards the ship.

To begin with you assume the personality of the ship's onboard computer and have to deal with problems during the voyage the trip is far from uneventful.

Every so often one of the five icons on the main viewscreen flashes to indicate that a problem has just arisen. Each icon leads into a subgame, played against the clock, in which the fault or threat has to be dealt with if the main mission is to continue. Meteor showers have a habit of knocking the antenna out of line from time to time, and it has to be adjusted until the maximum signal strength is regained.

Drifting off course sets off a defence system which releases homing missiles targetted on your ship. A Missile Command press fire when you're happy with its position type sequence then follows, and the aim is to limit the number of missiles that hit the ship, which changes colour from white through to blue before exploding when the shields give way.

Coffee supplies must be kept high vital for the pilot's reactions. A flashing coffee jug icon leads to a screenful of icons which control the whole coffee making process. By moving the cursor around and selecting icons, the coffee system has to be kept in equilibrium, including the pilot's bladder, which has to be emptied with the 't' icon lest it explode'.

Now and again, rampant germs gain access to the ventilation system of the craft and have to be eliminated in another arcade sequence in which a moving cursor is used to release spiralling germ killers. Finally, a logic problem has a habit of cropping up in a section of circuitry, and it has to be sorted out by providing the appropriate inputs to light up a set of LEDs.

The little sub games cycle round at random during the journey to the comet, and if you manage to survive them all it's time to get on with the main purpose of the mission: eradicating the germbags that live on the surface of the comet. Destroy them all, and you can return to Earth a superhero and saviour of the human race. Take too many hits from the bugs, and it's game over.

CRITICISM

'Thinking of a proper game based on the visit of Halley's Comet must have been a pretty hard task, so Firebird must have decided to get a load of little games together and think of a common element. They failed. The Comet Game is an excellently finished game, but it suffers from lots of things that aren't well explained, such as the antenna alignment - you have to press fire on completion, else you just blow up! Firebird have probably made the best they could have of the astronomical phenomenon, but this game is too bitty and would probably be too hard for most people to enjoy'

'Um. Halleys Comet is an excellent feature around which to base a game, but could someone tell Firebird that to sell lots and lots of copies of a game, and to get high placings in charts and things, you need a good game! The line drawing routines put Andrew Glaister's trademark on the game, but the repetitive sub-games get very boring after a while. I can see that the author has tried to make the game a good one, and I have to give him credit for that, but unfortunately it just doesn't seem to have worked out. When you have to start doing the same thing over and over again, it gets more and more tedious and 'got very bored of it'

'Grr! The on screen presentation is very neat, but I was ready to throw a brick at the telly when it kept flashing 'YOU LOST' on the screen. Each of the little games contained in the scenario is passably entertaining, but no great shakes, and by the time you've played them over and over and have still got more to survive before getting to the comet itself, annoyance sets in. When you do finally make the comet, the final sequence really doesn't justify all the effort expended getting there. Sorry Firebird, this game is more Lukewarm that Hot.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: redefinable
Joystick: Kempston
Keyboard play: a bit slow to respond, maybe
Use of colour: restrained
Graphics: neat wire frame routines
Sound: raspy spot effect
Skill levels: one
Screens: six
General Rating: Effectively a compilation of little budget games.

69%
71%
57%
66%
57%
55%
58%

Screenshot Text

Aligning the antenna so that it receives the maximum signal, as indicated in the little panel on the left. Don't forget to press fire when you're happy with its position.

The coffee making screen, in which the mechanical equipment has to be kept topped up and the human equipment emptied out!