1987
Tactical Combat
£9.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

61
Jim Douglas
Chris Bourne

It's 3D city this month, isn't it? What with Gunship finally arriving from the Microprose people and all.

Mercenary, too, has been a long time in the making. A couple of years ago, there was a right old commotion kicked up about the C64 version, with people saying it was the best game ever and other such nonsense. Well, I say nonsense, but I can't think of another game, even Elite, which has maintained its reputation and notoriety with quite the same success as Mercenary.

You are a soldier-for-hire, who'll do anything if the price is right - used to screwing people every which-way and running like crazy once you've got the cash in your pocket.

To cut a long story short, you find yourself stranded on Targ with no money and a written-off space-ship. To escape, you have to buy yourself a ship big enough to break out of Targ's unusually strong gravitational pull. Such ships don't come cheap.

Information about Targ can be obtained by listening to Benson, your mini-computer assistant who lives in your helmet. Benson is a bit like a cut-down Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, except he doesn't have Don't Panic written on him, and he doesn't have much of a sense of humour. Anyway, Benson informs you that the Palyars were the original and rightful inhabitants of Targ, and that they were moved out and oppressed and generally mistreated by a bunch of bullies from another galaxy called the Mechanoids. So. Why not see if you can sell your combat skills to the Playars? Kick out the Mechanoids, and give them back their planet. They're bound to reward you.

Off you go, then, into the vector line-graphic landscape. Walking around is very tedious, so you should try and pinch or buy someone's hopper-craft to speed up travel a little. The graphics are astoundingly fast. Much quicker than on the C64, coming close to the speed of the ST version.

Targa isn't a small place. The Central City is the most interesting place to explore. You can enter all of the buildings and have a good old nose around in search of, well. I'm not quite sure what you're in search of. Clues. Yes, that's it. You're in search of clues to help you to investigate all the buildings and initially try to make contact with the Palyars. From then on, you're very much on your own.

Around the city are points of interest such as the Science Museum, where information can be gleaned as to the previous developments in Targ's engineering and electronic history. Benson's memory banks can be investigated to see if any particular item or place holds valuable properties/ information.

During play, you can progress through various ships, each having their own advantages or disadvantages. All of the craft, though, have to be abandoned when venturing underground. This is where the game really comes into its own, and you realise that, as well as being a very competent space-flight simulator, it's a great 3D maze game. You wander through corridors, trying to pass through locked doors etc. Some of the rooms act as teleport zones and you can use them to beam around the planet.

Mercenary is a rather amazing game. It crams so much in strategy-wise and still manages to incorporate more speed than you would imagine possible. It's a very polished chunk of programming.

Label: Novagen
Author: David Aubrey Jones
Price: £9.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

Strategic futuristic graphic adventure. Mix of vector graphic simulator and 3D maze game. Well worth the wait.

8/10

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PROGRAMMER

DAVID AUBREY JONES ha been commercially programming on the Spectrum for around three years. Having successfully converted Mercenary to the Amstrad, he was set to work on the Spectrum version. (The program's original author PAUL WOAKES is so reclusive, no-one knows anything about him.)

SOFTOGRAPHY: Galazian (Atari, 1984), Hero (Atari, 1985), Deathstar Interceptor (System 3, 1986), Tornado Low Level (Vortex, 1986 - Amstrad version)