Mind Games
Stephen Ward
1986
Arcade: Maze
£9.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Power-Load

82,83
Sean Masterson
Chris Bourne

Latest in the Argus Press Software Mind Games range is Mission Omega, an arcade strategy game with some interesting aspects. The plot goes like this. You are Captain Men of the Windwraith, a mining vessel of the United States of Europe. Your ship has just survived a perilous mining mission, but fate is set to deal another blow. An unknown object with the mass of a small moon has entered the solar system with a velocity just less than the speed of light itself and a trajectory taking it ever closer to Earth. Attempts to contact it have failed and, out of fear, Earth's politicians have decided it must be deactivated. Windwraith is the only ship capable of reaching it in time.

In fact you have one hour real time. After forty five minutes, the object (codenamed Omega) launches a missile towards Earth. Fifteen minutes later, it reaches its destination. Inside that hour, Omega's four reactors must be shut down and you must escape, thereby making the artefact safe.

The fully icon driven game centres on the exploration of the vessel hurtling towards Earth. You need to construct several robots in order to start exploring, and up to eight may be built, each with a base, weapon, sensor and power pack. The number and type of robots are limited by the amount of resources carried by the mining craft. Several types of each of the four robotic components are available, making the actual choice of machines quite varied.

Robot bases may be anti-gravity, tracked, legged or sphere (rather like a Terrahawks Zeroid). Weapons include small and large lasers, particle beam weapons and missiles. Sensors offer the choice of visual, audio or infra-red while power packs consist of two types of battery or a small nuclear reactor. The combinations may be limited by the fact that certain items need more power than others and each chassis can only support so many kilograms' mass. The computer will not allow robots that do not conform to the restrictions of their components to be assembled. However, seeing as they have to be built in real time, there is little room for error.

Once your robots have been built and named, exploration may begin. This may take place in one of three ways. The first, and most obvious of these is by manual control of each robot one at a time. However, robots may be allowed to progress on automatic (though this is only possible for a short period of time) or may be programmed for a limited number of moves (and this was one option that did not seem to work). When a droid is under your control, its progress is displayed on an animated display to the left of the screen. To the right is a real time clock, status display for the droid, damage and energy displays, control options (manual, auto and programmed) and an icon to select the next droid for control. At the top of the screen the Quit and Map options are provided the map only showing the part of Omega explored so far. At the base of the screen is a message window, used for communications with droids.

Robot power packs gradually run down and eventually leave droids immobile, but a drained pack recharges if the droid is left alone for a while. More importantly, Omega is equipped with its own defence droids which are inevitably encountered from time to time. When they are, it's useful to have a droid with a powerful weapon and an accurate sensor unit!

In fact a series of keys are required to allow access to each of the reactors. Keys are relatively easy to find. Reactors have to be found, identified and deactivated. Even then there are a lot of unanswered questions. How does the teleport work? (I can use them but not necessarily control them.) What is the purpose of the switches set sporadically across the complex and do they have anything to do with the apparently invulnerable force fields? Is there anywhere where new sources of raw materials to build replacement droids can be found?

What Argus have managed to create here is an interesting, difficult but colourful and enjoy able hybrid game that should appeal equally to strategy and arcade fans. It isn't the best of its kind by any means but the chances are, you won't give up until it's successfully completed. The worst part of the game is the instruction inlay. It's a total waste of time. Apart from contradicting itself (at one point saying Omega has to be destroyed, then just deactivated), it doesn't even mention which keys are needed to do what. There is also no warning about the fact that the game is not Interface 1 compatible. Apart from the dreadful instructions, and the rather steep price, the game really is worth taking a closer look at.

Now, I wonder how I'm going to disable those force fields...

CRITICISM

81%
Good screen layout and choice of colour.
36%
Once you figure them out, they're fine. Shoddily left out of the package for some reason.
75%
Not easy, I admit. Looking after all these droids can be quite a headache.
79%
Some good animation and a pleasing display.
N/A
86%
Most formidable.
72%
At least a pound over the odds.
75%
A good challenge if you can spare the cash.