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Martech Games Ltd
1986
Adventure: Graphic
£9.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
SpeedLock 2

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30
Chris Bourne

Natural disasters have devastated the planet Earth and the human race is in danger but a missive from an alien race may point the way to salvation. A metal canister hurtles through the void of space with a secret computer code inside it. When the program tape it contains is loaded into an Earth computer, a complex game is revealed but there are no instructions.

It becomes clear that other capsules have been deposited on each of the nine planets in the Solar System, and your mission is to pilot a solo craft, find these capsules and unlock their secrets. First your lander must be sent to Earth to collect the canister there and a long-range map of the solar system so that your mission can begin.

The main game is controlled from the cockpit of a Type 224 Explorer craft. Messages from Control scroll across the top of the main viewscreen, round which icons are grouped. These allow you to manipulate the lander, explore the planets you visit, travel through the depths of space, and access computerised mapping and database systems. At the bottom of the screen is a chart showing the time and the star-date. Underneath this is a panel showing what your next destination is and how long it will take to get there.

A tractor beam controls the lander automatically during descent and ascent above a height of 10 kilometers from the surface. The lander is affected by the gravitational pull of the planet which it is attempting to land on or leave, and manual manipulation of the boosters is vital to ensure a safe journey. A limited quantity of fuel is available, and if too much energy is expended during the landing you'll be stuck planetside for the rest of your days.

During travel between planets, various hazards including space debris in the form of meteorites is encountered and to avoid damage to the ship, an arcade sequence involving some nifty application of the on board lasers has to be played through.

Once the lander has arrived on a planet's surface safely it's time to find the alien capsule and attempt to open it. A robot explorer is available for short range sorties, and once the capsule has been located a locksystem has to be cracked before it reveals another part of the alien puzzle.

Each of the codes yielded by the capsule help to solve the ultimate puzzle set by the aliens and playing the strange alien same is likely to assist in cracking the problem. Martech hint that the Solar System itself is a clue and promise a prize to the first person to contact them after completing the game. Get with it...

CRITICISM

'Zoids is easily one of the best games on the Spectrum, and Martech's latest release, The Planets, is quite an admirable attempt, though I don't think it's as good as Zoids. The graphics are quite nice, though they are far better in some parts than in others, and the sound during play is a bit boring, though the title tune is a masterpiece. I found the game very hard to get into, but it was well worth the effort. The instructions could have been far better, as they go little further than explaining the function of the icons and basic gameplay. Getting down to the planets is both difficult and frustrating, as not only do you have to leave enough fuel in reserve for the journey back up, but you have to keep a very careful eye on your speed, and it can get quite tough at times. Really, I have played better games, though I think Martech have polished this one to its limits and come up with a very respectable game.'

'The Planets is one of those games which you can't just jump into aimlessly. It requires a thorough read of the instructions, and patience in introducing yourself to the techniques of the game. The game can be either very involving or frustrating if it suddenly ends as the result of a misplaced twitch of the finger. Landing the craft is a very tricky procedure and requires excellent hand-to-eye co-ordination. Once you've landed you can really get going! The graphics are very good on the planets and good use of colour has been made throughout the whole of the game. The Planets is a very involving game which deserves a good look at from arcade players who like to dabble in the strategy side of things now and again'

'This is a very large game indeed. Not only do you get a separate little alien game, Weird, but the Solar System has to be loaded in three chunks - all the data won't fit into 48K. (128 owners get the whole lot in one long load.) There's plenty of accurate information about the Solar System contained in the game, thanks to the advice and assistance Heather Couper the astronomer gave Martech, and you're bound to come away with something of an education when you play The Planets. Overall, it is a nice blend of arcade and strategy/puzzle sequences and should keep most gamesters well and truly busy for quite a while. Worth checking out.'

COMMENTS
Control keys
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2
Keyboard play: without problems
Use of colour: some very attractive sequences
Graphics: very good
Sound: great title tune plus spot effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: main console with viewscreen
General Rating: A large and complex game that takes some playing through!

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Screenshot Text

The delightful vista that greets you on the viewscreen when the Lander has arrived back home on planet Earth.