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Marcus Berkmann
Chris Bourne

It's probably fair to say that who didn't like Mercenary, or indeed would rather have eaten their own arms than buy a copy, wont be reading this review. So we must be left with the civilised minority - those loopy boils who, like me, spent untold hours mapping the huge underground dungeons of Targ and slowly, gradually, maddeningly solving the problems of what went where and what those enormous geometrical shapes were all about. We are the people who went straight down one of the lifts and started rooting around the hangars, corridors and teleports while all the trigger happy bods were taking potshots at buildings and wondering the action was going to start.

But even a game as great Mercenary can't keep you going forever, and there comes a time when the fevered brain demands new excitments. So, step forward Novagen with its latest masterpiece, Mercenary - The Second City.

Many readers will by now have noticed a certain similarity between the two games.

All right, I admit it. The Second City is not the long awaited sequel to Mercenary- that's called Damocles, and there's still no sign of it - but a mere dataset to load in as a saved game. But as 'mere' datasets go, it's highly impressive. What it gives you is not really a second city as such, but more of an alternative Targ - albeit a red-and-yellow one rather than a blue-and-green one. The game-play is similar, the objects (and object) the same, but it's much much harder.

Your map for Escape From Targ, therefore, is completely useless. The layout's different here, and the underground network is both harder to find (not quite so many lifts - at least not accessible ones) and far more difficult to get around.

Remember those first happy times you played Mercenary, when you toddled freely around downstairs all over the place? No longer, I fear. Everyone is barred by locked doors, and finding the keys is a tricky business and no mistake. Triangular doorways are particularly frustrating, as you can't find a key anywhere - until you realise that it's all a hilarious joke of the programmer's and there is no key. My, how we laughed. Ha, ha.

Then there's the dark hangar, and more of those teleports that reverse everything (except that this time you have to use them), and more traps and ways of being imprisoned and locked doors and everything! Aaaaagh! There are even two dots in the sky when you look up to find the space station. Two? Two.

It's not a new game, and it doesn't pretend to be. Just think of it as a harder version of the original Mercenary which'll keep you guessing, thinking and kicking the cat for just as long. I won't give too much away, as the pleasure really lies in finding out for yourself - but of course you know that. If Mercenary was your cup of tea, then think of The Second City as a chocolate chip cookie, and you won't go far wrong.

Excellent extension to Mercenary which will keep fans going for yonks. Now where's Damocles, eh, Novagen?