THE ASTEROID spins alone in the darkness of space, shelter for a city which has been shattered by decay and the dedicated evil which lies within it.
Its heart beats quickly but strongly, providing the power for the city's defences. They are protection for the evil tyrant Cyrus T Gross - the last vestiges of his stronghold which still provides too much firepower for humans to withstand.
Fortunately no human will have to go up against the might of Gross. You have been given permission to use the experimental NOMAD robot to penetrate the centre of the city and destroy him.
The Nemesis Organisation Mobile Attack Droid is highly intelligent - and looks like a pregnant kangaroo. Its infra-red visual receptors and high-frequency audio-receivers are capable of detecting lasers, missiles and alien life forms. It has two magnum 57 calibre blasters but is not indestructible, so be careful.
To further complicate matters NOMAD is subject to the gravity conditions of the asteroid - there are none. If he moves forward he will not stop immediately if you pull back on the controls. He will slow to a halt. You can get him to do an emergency stop by turning 180 degrees but even then he will not halt dead in his tracks.
The complex assault course starts at the spaceport. From there you must wheel your way through the slums into the city centre and break through to the enemy HQ before confronting Gross in his personal quarters.
Most of the defences - at least of the slum area - are easy to defeat using simple tactics, but some are more surprising. Early defensive deployments include missiles which pop out of their wall tubes like ping pong balls, and catherine wheels which spit small ammunition in great arcs.
Each of the screens should be taken as a mini game and the transition between the last and the next must be accomplished with the utmost amount of care. You should stick closely to one or other of the corridor walls to avoid being destroyed too quickly, and also to set up for a shot at either a missile tube or Catherine wheel.
Take the latter out first. You can collide with these magenta monstrosities without any damage but a hit from one of their missiles will destroy you.
The best technique for knocking out wall-based missile launchers is to move along the wall in which they are situated until you are almost in front of the launcher. Make the movements in short slow spurts or you could end up staring down the end of a barrel. Next you should turn in towards the tube and fire. Your blasters will come to life and wipe out the missile pod giving you points for the launcher and any missile you hit on its way out.
During all manoeuvres it is best to hug the walls; you'll meet most nasty surprises in the middle of corridors. On some occasions, however, you may find yourself stuck. Moving forward will be almost impossible and you will start to fear for your life.
Just turn your back to the wall and squeeze the fire button gently. You will find that the magnetic force is negated and you can be on your way - hugging the other wall for comfort.
There are three types of gun installation. The first provides a single line of fire while the second produces cross fire with two guns at 90 degrees from each other. The most dangerous - the third - is the vertical series. Suddenly you will find yourself dropping down a long tunnel-like corridor. Three guns - two on one wall, one on the other - are positioned at varying distances apart. They fire at random and one is bound to get you if you hesitate or try to storm them.
While you can rack up points by knocking out the vertical series it is best to play the coward and sneak past them. Hug the wall at the top of the corridor then let go of key or joystick controls until all three obstacles are past.
In some instances another deadly surprise - a catherine wheel - lies at the bottom of the corridor. Keep your finger over the fire button and make sure you exit the corridor with your weapons pointing forward.
The entire city - as well as being broken into levels - is split into sectors using gates operated by switching mechanisms. Some of those are closed while others remain open. The switches are levers sticking out of the wall and to operate them you just brush up against them. If a lever points to the right its gate is open, to the left and its gate is closed.
The gates are simple to overcome but slow you down making you more susceptible to the incredibly evil Robothugs. They can appear at any time during the second and upward levels of the game, and cause havoc with their suicidally explosive leaps at NOMAD.
They can glide down corridors or come out of the walls and look like Corona bubbles on their way to a fizzical. They make rare appearances but when they do you should drop everything, get into the middle of the corridor, wait till they get close and fire your weapons. One shot will destroy them but you will not get a second chance - they float incredibly quickly towards their prey.
NOMAD suffers from one insurmountable problem. There are not enough species of obstacle and those that are included are easy to overcome once you know how. Finding the answers is a case of trial and error but once found the game will no doubt quickly find its way back into the cassette box.
The game gives a nice twist to an old shoot-'em-up theme, but does not go far enough. The action, though slow, is colourful but, again, there is little variation in the graphics. It might prove entertaining for new Spectrum owners though the more seasoned gamers will require more to fill their precious playing time.
Joystick: Kempston, cursor, Interface II