1985
Strategy: War
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

121,122
Sean Masterson
Chris Bourne

First impressions of Convoy were very good indeed. The packaging was superb, especially for a budget game. So, interest already aroused, it was hastily loaded and that was where disillusionment set in.

The game displays a very impressive loading screen somewhat reminiscent of Beach Head, which has clearly been designed by professional graphic artists: unusual for budget software and certainly for wargames of this type. Unfortunately, the good impressions end once the game has loaded. The two players required must choose their respective flagships and it's time to read the instructions.

One problem with many strategy games, and in particular wargames, is that it's usually necessary to digest masses of highly detailed rules before play may commence. Sometimes this proves to be worthwhile, sometimes not. This was one game where reading rules hardly made any difference at all they were simply appallingly vague. The so-called instructions are, in fact, just an information sheet about the various ships and submarines with additional information regarding navigational techniques. The only other item covered is how one actually wins (or indeed loses) the game. Actually how to play is not even mentioned once. It is precisely this sort of oversight which can render games of this type totally useless. Before contemplating victory in Convoy, you need to spend a long time working out how to make your moves.

Playing the game is a tiresome and laborious task. First you have to opt to signal, then type in which unit you wish to signal to, go the the process of actually telling the unit what to do, which is yet another series of entries, each needing a fair amount of consideration. One interesting touch is that requesting a report on a particular unit causes a picture of the ship to appear on the screen. However, once the same picture has appeared several times but referred to under different names, the effect soon wears off. The graphics for these little symbols are quite nicely done, like the title screen but don't expect anything like the quality of graphics involved in an arcade or adventure game.

The object of the game is to get supplies to your own country, while simultaneously trying prevent supplies reaching your opponent's country. Surprisingly, there is no option to play against the computer. Convoy is a strictly two-player game, with Germany and Britain to choose from, and secrecy of plans and routes is so vital to interesting play that one person cannot play both sides successfully you need a friend as an enemy! Furthermore, it is essential that each player looks away from the screen at various points in the game, which might prove difficult under some circumstances.

You try to achieve your aim by setting courses for your ships, pointing them in the direction of your country. This task is made very tricky by periodic weather changes, and allowances must be made accordingly (this is easier said than done). You can also try to set courses to block off enemy ports or shipping routes, though during play, absolutely no success was gained attempting this. An action sequence is mentioned in the ' instructions', but again, we couldn't find it!

What you do have to watch out for, is encounters with aircraft. Any damage to merchant vessels from planes sinks them, meaning you land less cargo when you reach port. One annoyance was dealing with petty details such as calculating exactly the speed of ships as they entered port so that they didn't crash straight into the harbour that is probably going further than actual ships do in practice! It also means you waste a good deal of time for very little reason.

The game inevitably takes a long time to play to its conclusion and it becomes immensely boring long before then. There is a save game option for masochists, though. Convoy is a very strange mixture some very good graphics (spoiled by vast overuse) combined with the potential of a reasonable wargame are ruined by poor game play. There is a redefined character set but as only three of the characters are redefined, there seems to be little logic to this self defeating feature. In fact, the game is riddled with so many petty annoyances that the game probably takes more time to play than the average gamer will be prepared to devote to it. All in all, this is the sort of game which will quite likely put you off wargames for life and gives strategy games a bad name.

Even at £2.50 Convoy is not value for money, despite its professional packaging. It's quite simply a disappointment from start to finish leave well alone.

Martin Lester

CRITICISM

30%
Unimaginative and simple.
10%
What rules? Practically non-existent.
40%
Not difficult, but annoying and unremarkable.
50%
Not bad for this kind of game, but spoiled by repetition.
50%
Hard to say as it isn't strictly a simulation.
12%
Minimal - only for masochists.
25%
Even the low price doesn't justify its shortcomings.

Screenshot Text

A Status screen during the sea-nic game, CONVOY. Personally we prefer playing with our rubber ducks in the bath - more fun and safer.