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Legend [1]
Movisoft
1984
Strategy: Management
£15.00
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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118,119
Chris Bourne

Legend has created its own legend through the release of only two games, Valhalla which incorporated the graphic technique of 'Movisoft', and this new release, The Great Space Race with the advanced technique of 'Movisoft2'. Movisoft is a grand term for animated graphics, which were seen to good effect in Valhalla, but by implication the graphics are intended to resemble a real film in motion. The Great Space Race comes in a sizeable hard box containing the tape, a poster and a hefty 56 page booklet. Opening the book you find instructions on playing the game and a series of black and white comic strips which tell a short story on all 12 characters you will primarily encounter. The purpose behind the comic strips is to give the player some insight into the strengths and character of the racers you will have to hire or fight. These are all introduced to you at the commencement of a game, and it is with the characters' faces that 'Movisoft2' comes in.

The basic story is that in the galaxy and at a time past, a marvellous alcoholic beverage had been developed called Natof (it seems the first ever consignment of the yet un-named drink was filled in on the form with 'Name To Follow', and as it never did and Name To Follow was a bit of a mouthful, it became abbreviated to Natof). This beverage is in enormous demand since it never leaves a hangover and contains all the right constituents for a healthy and happily inebriated life. The galaxy is divided into four arms of its spiral, Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. In each arm there are 24 space stations in desperate need of Natof. Your task is to supply them all. To do this you must hire four racers, one for each sector and arm their ships ready to cope with the race using stocks of your starting supply of Natof.

The first section of the game consists of the hiring and arming. Each of the main characters appears in the viewscreen and his or her details appear below in the information panel plus the hiring price. In the top information panel you are told to press for yes or no, and a graphic representation of a clock ticks the seconds away for you to make your choice. On selecting a crew member, you must then select the weapons from a choice of lasers, missiles and smart bombs and a shield per craft. There is a time limit on making all these choices before the race commences, and racers' fees tend to drop as the starting time approaches.

Understanding the character and abilities of the racers is important in choosing them and apart from the comic strips, much intelligence is gained through playing the game. Choice of weapons is also dictated by the arm of the galaxy in which the racer will be operating - some are more violent and lawless than others. The better policed ones will also bring problems with the often corrupt police chasing you for taxes.

Once the race starts in earnest, the bottom information panel becomes more important, for it is here that your racers and enemies will report to you. The viewscreen shows the animated faces of the communicant, while their message appears below. This may take the form of your racer saying another racer's ship is in sight, should they attack? (any racers you have not hired are automatically working for the computer). It may be the other way round, with your racer being attacked by another. It may be one of the four computer controlled characters, the incredible Ghengis, the pirates Zanik and Krone or the police threatening to attack one of your racers unless you pay so much Natof over. The outcome of any combat, which is graphically represented, will depend on the shield strength, weaponry and character of the racer and ship in question, as well as that of the attacker.

Reports come in constantly about the Natof deliveries being made by your hired racers, and decisions may be required at this point to send the racer in a different direction. More money may have to be paid out for ship repairs, otherwise the racer will simply drop out, or for sobering up time (they drink Natof constantly). The game ends when either all 96 space stations have been supplied, or when your four racers have been knocked out of the race. The game operates in real time, so time spent making up your mind is time wasted. Scoring is done by the number of space stations supplied, the total time taken and the average time that each delivery took. In this sense there is no real winner, only an improving of times and numbers of deliveries.

CRITICISM

'The Great Space Race has now been advertised for quite a long time and has been eagerly awaited by the general public. I was quite surprised to see it arrive in a very flashy video-style case with a huge booklet. It is extremely nicely packaged I thought, will this reflected in the game? After glancing through the booklet I decided to load the game. For a program that's meant to contain such a lot of content, it loaded in a relatively short time. It presented several characters from whom I could make a choice of those I wanted for the race. A time limit is imposed so quick thinking is necessary to make up your mind. The choice is hindered by the fact that the text window is not cleared for each character. This does lose you considerable time and isn't really fair if you have to read text and make a decision. After selecting your character for a particular ship, you are asked what weapons you would like, and I chose all weapons available (well I wanted to be protected)! The game seems to play on its own, although it does prompt you now and again, like whether you want to attack the computer controlled characters or land on booby-trapped vessels to get more booze. Other than this it doesn't really seem to involve the player much at all. Graphics are very nicely presented, very detailed and I must say I enjoyed looking at the different people displayed on the screen. Battle scenes, though, were a bit sketchy and didn't contain much. They seemed a bit pointless as they didn't prove anything. As I had all weapons available, anyone that attacked me didn't seem to stand a chance and died at once. Overall The Great Space Race has seemingly been pushed as a far greater game than it actually is, it doesn't reflect, for such a high price, much value for money.'

'It must be very hard for a software house today to know exactly what the public wants or expects of them. The trick is to find the magical ingredient. Legend have set themselves quite a task to follow up Valhalla, and with The Great Space Race they have not succeeded. Movisoft2 sounds exciting but it only reflects the minor elements of animation in the racers' and other characters' faces in the viewscreen. While these are very large and well drawn, the animation is pretty limited, as much by memory I suspect as anything. Although the game begins to build up as you go along, the greatest disappointment is that it provides very little really for the player to do. It falls out as being very much like any simpler strategy game where you are constantly offered options and must either say yes or no and then sit back at look at the consequences. You have no control over the battle scenes beyond having made the right decisions in character and weapon selection earlier. The information box at the bottom is very confusing, as it does not clear the previous line of text until that scrolls up out of sight. Consequently it is hard at a moment's glance to see where you are or what is happening, and as some decisions are critical and must be taken quite rapidly, a disaster can go by default. Perhaps the kindest thing to say is that Legend have bravely tried to do something that is really beyond the capacity of the Spectrum, or indeed any home computer without extra memory or instant read write storage facilities. But even then, the result lacks playing content and comes across as a cold and somewhat inaccessible program.'

'Movisoft implies, to me at any rate, that the animation will be frame by frame, and actually go a long way to look like a real film. As it stands though the 3D scenes given (3D being one of the best ways of showing animation) are not smooth whatsoever - the representations of the ships and the space stations use three to four frames to come from a dot to full size, while in the battle scenes the graphics dart about in space and dimension like something out of a very early ZX81 game. The graphics of the playing characters are very good, on the other hand, but they too, could hardly be said to be animated, beyond the odd eye or mouth movement. Moving over from the animation, the key response doesn't seem very good for a machine code game, taking sometimes up to three seconds - but wait, haven't we been here before? The Great Space Race turns out, as did Valhalla, to be virtually all in BASIC, the only machine coded parts are for graphics and for graphic handling routines. This explains the slowness of the response and also means that the sort of modern compression techniques used to pack a lot of game into a small space haven't been employed, resulting in a game which lacks in content apart from the excellent packaging. Expectations were rather high on this game and it's a shame that they've been let down to such an extent.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: 'yes' or 'no' key presses to screen prompt
Joystick: doesn't need one
Keyboard play: very simple, but slowish response time
Use of colour: above average, reasonably varied
Graphics: very large, in most cases quite detailed but some insignificant
Sound: hardly any
Skill levels: 1
Lives: not entirely applicable, but four racers
Screens: several
Special features: lavish packaging and large instruction booklet
General Rating: A great disappointment.

58%
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44%

Screenshot Text

First off, all the characters introduce themselves to you.

One of the galazy arm space stations eagerly awaiting a delivery of NATOF.

Zanik demands a ransom. In the information panel one of the peculiarities of the text presentation can be seen where NATOF is spelt with a capital N one time and a small n next time.

Haberdasher's ship attacks Zanik's ship in a fight to the death over a bottle of NATOF.