I'm still not exactly sure what to make of Agent Orange. OK, it's got a completely lousy title, but it's quite original plot-wise, and it plays very well. Well, while I'm making up my mind, see what you think of the 'concept' (man).
Three generations after the Battle of Britain, dogfights of a far larger magnitude are raging on planets all across the solar system. Having exhausted much of Earth's crops, and in an ever-progressive system, whole worlds are exploited for their growth/enducing environments. They're turned into huge greenhouses on which crops are planted, grown and harvested.
Policing these places is a big headache, as is simply moving the crops in order to sell them. As a result, a new industry was born. The workers have long hours, poor conditions and little incentive other than the money they can make by importing crops from dangerous areas and maybe ridding the galaxy of a few alien parasites.
The trouble with these aliens, though, is that they just seem to decide that any planet is their own, and can plant their own crops on land which you have already claimed. Obviously this is not on, and will have to be dealt with.
OK. That's the story. You are a Flying Farmer - as they are known - and have the job of planting and harvesting crops, and dealing with the aliens.
Once you've decided which options to select (joystick/ redefined keys etc) you enter the game proper. The screen swishes open to reveal the mothership and your tiny hovvery thing on the launch pad. Off you go over miles and miles of monochrome landscape, which apparently is only a few metres wide - you can't go up or down. Now you will have a full tank of seeds that need planting. Trying to plant these on machinery and weedy areas is pretty stupid. Instead, you've got to find some ground that hasn't been attacked or built on.
As you fly low over the surface, hold down the Fire button and your pods of seeds will be shot into the ground. Soon they'll start to grow into little cubes of colour.
Of course, the aliens are doing exactly the same thing with their crops, and it's up to you to stop it. Alien craft fly around and take pot shots at you now and again. These can, at least on the early levels, be picked off very easily. Once you've killed one, they will explode in a puff of white smoke. Miraculously his cargo of seeds makes it through the explosion and will lie, invitingly, on the ground. All you have to do is fly over the pod and collect it.
Alien seeds overrun your own potential growing areas and must be removed by flying at low level and firing continuously. Having dealt with a couple of aliens and blown away most of their crops, some of your seeds (remember we planted some a couple of paragraphs back) should have turned green, signifying their readiness to be harvested. Harvesting is a doddle. Just fly over the crops and watch your cargo gauge begin to fill.
Once you've stocked up on crops, it's back to the mothership and off to another planet.
Crops can be converted to money in order to buy a more heavily defended ship. This will come in handy in later stages when the baddies develop tougher hulls.
And that's just about the measure of it. The graphics are rather nice, it's all rather original, and there's some genuine strategy involved; should you concentrate on harvesting your ripe crops or try to deal with the spreading alien vegetation? Not so much kill, kill, kill as sow. harvest, sell and kill a bit.
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
Love-it-or-hate it style strategy-blast with a bit of ecology thrown in for good measure. Highly innovative storyline.