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A'n'F Software
Icon Design Ltd
1987
Arcade: Action
£8.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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23
Ben Stone, Paul Sumner, Mike Dunn
Chris Bourne

The single greatest drawback of space travel is its cost. But the costs are worth it of the profit is reliable, and space farming certainly meets that requirement.

You would like to try your hand at the new game of seeding uninhabited planets and harvesting the resulting crops. Trouble is, that an alien species have just had the same idea, and their plants ('weeds' to you) seem to do so much better. The only real ray of hope is Agent Orange - a potent weedkiller that reaches alien weeds the way ordinary domestic killers can't. It's out there in the wide galaxy - somewhere, if only you could find it...

Still, before that, there's farming work to be done. You are faced with battling across eight planets full of rival alien planters. Starting from home, a mothership heads for the first world, carrying seed crop and all-purpose crop-planted fighters (or daughterships). On arrival in orbit, an information screen shows the number of enemy craft on the planet, and their shield strengths. When the daughtership is launched, the screen displays the immobile mother ship and the virgin soil below. The view is from overhead with a left/right flip scrolling screen - the fighter moves in eight directions.

Further read-outs indicate the fighter's shield strength, enemy shield strength, score, money and number of seeds and harvested crops in the fighter's hold.

Crops are planted by holding down FIRE and moving the craft over the planet's surface. Once sown, they multiply fruitfully, going through three stages of growth: red, blue and green. When green, they're ready for harvesting, a simple matter of moving the fighter back over them. Leaving the crops unharvested causes them to wither and die.

This scene of peaceful cultivation hides a violent fight for the right to plant. Alien fighter/harvesters are there too, and are determined to stake their claim. On the early levels of the game, just one shot disposes of them; but later, with bigger shields, they're far more aggressive. These ships can also plant crops, which you cannot harvest - but you can burn them off. If the joystick is released and the fire button is held down, the ship starts to fire rapid, short range shots, clearing alien weed to give your crops more room to breed.

Strategy plays a part. The fighter's hold carries only 600 harvested units, and when it's full, the fighter returns to the Mothership. Fighter shields are replenished at this stage. The Mothership can only carry 2000 units, so after three harvesting trips, the Mothership must return home to cash in the crops. But it can only leave the planet if all alien ships have been destroyed.

Back home you can trade ships. The current stock of ships and seeds is cashed in, and the sum added to money received for crops farmed. More expensive models with better shielding can be purchased with the profits.

Meanwhile, back at the space ranch, more aliens have taken up residence. You can return and start over, or try for another planet - who knows, you might discover that elusive Agent Orange.

CRITICISM

'I really don't know what to make of this - it's a sort of dodgy shoot 'em up with a few frills and virtually no lasting appeal. The gameplay is much too difficult to get into and the instructions don't help that much - nice scenario though. The graphics are generally poor, the screen flicks abysmally and the characters, whilst being well detailed, flicker and jerk around the screen. The sound is also nothing to write home about. There are a few measly effects but no in-game tunes. There are some good shoot 'em ups around-this isn't one of them.' BEN

'I think it's a pretty sick joke to bring up Agent Orange as a subject for a game, but that's beside the point I suppose. You don't need to be put off by the name of the game, playing it will make you think seriously about it. Agent Orange is described as a combination of shoot 'em up and strategy. The arcade bit is certainly there, but the game contains little else. The idea of planting crops and harvesting them is quite neat but the thought hasn't been developed enough. I didn't realty enjoy Agent Orange as it seemed very hollow in content.' PAUL

'Agent Orange isn't all that much of a game. It's not flawed; the way in which it was put together seems to have done it justice, but the way in which the game itself actually works is fairly mindless. The business of fiddling about with crops is alright for the first few bouts, but after a while, it gets tedious. The graphics aren't stunning, and though Agent Orange isn't a bad game, I wouldn't recommend it.' MIKE

COMMENTS
Control keys: definable, left, right, up, down, fire
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Use of colour:
Graphics: detailed bas-relief, but jerky
Sound: title tune, average spot FX
Skill levels: one
Screens: eight scrolling landscapes
General Rating: An original and intriguing idea, but lacking in the finer elements of gameplay.

72%
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59%

Screenshot Text

Threatened by the approaching enemy, your craft emerges from the mothership.

Between planting jobs, your fighter passes an abandoned processing plant.