US Gold Ltd
1987
Strategy: Management
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Alkatraz Protection System

50
John Gilbert
Chris Bourne

I thought this type of space trader was blasted on its way when Elite hit the streets two years ago. But no. Here's Psi-5 Trading. US Gold obviously thinks otherwise.

It's a positively archaic strategy game. And, as you'd expect, it takes five minutes just to Load in the crew initialisation section, followed by nearly another ten to dump in the rest of the game.

It being a space trade game, you're in space and looking to trade commodities of various types. Before you can start, though, you get to sort out the crew of your intergalactic space cargo vessel - the previously mentioned initialisation sequence.

Five vacancies and five applicants for each one. Sit down, put your feet up, and prepare to go through the form cards of all 25.

Each card has different pros and cons. Their ages - ranging between 12 and 270 - education, strengths, weaknesses and abilities - most of which were alien to me.

The whole thing is menu-driven and you move a highlight cursor up and down the list of options. There's no joystick option, just cursor keys and space, but each item is labeled with an alphabetic character: press that and you select the adjacent option.

Once you've chosen the crew and waited yawningly for the rest to load you can take charge of the five control centres of your rickety old ship. Navigation is controlled through a few alarmingly inaccurate course options. There's shortest path, medium deviation to port/starboard and full port/starboard circumvention. I'm sure they mean circumnaviation, but that's space for you. You've also got to choose between the Standard Course setting or Evasive Action. The latter sets the klaxxons sounding - the only good sound FX if you've got a 128 - and a warning message flashes on the screen.

The enemy aliens in the Commodore 64 screen shot on the 48K inlay card - surely there's a law against that - looks fantastic but the Spectrum aliens are puny and about as realistic as the flat star-field behind them.

Then there's the alien names. They look like the author was experimenting with a random character generator: Zeltoads, Kiffboks and Skront's. Hey, this is easy. I could do this! How about Rebtaks, Compoids and Pussprefects. I think mine were better, but then I'm like that... I don't know what each of Psi-5's aliens look like and, to be perfectly honest, I don't want to know. They all flicker over the screen so quickly that identification would be impossible if it weren't for the ship's weapon's section.

Ah, weapons. There are four types: Missiles, Blasters, Cannons, and a Thermos - a sort of firestorm which wipes out most thingies (and there I was, just about to keep my soup in it). You can either choose the order in which weapons are fired by your weapons officer, or give the order to fire at will. No matter what you do the results are highly unimpressive. Most of the time all you'll see is the number of alien craft you potted and that only if you consult the Weapons chart which give you hits and weapons expended.

If you're lucky you'll get through the mission, deliver the cargo and be able to choose another of the three main missions in the game. You could, for instance, go to Kozzar-7 with Nucliaro for $12m or, perhaps, Splyteux with Prebliks for $50m (more random letter generated toss-blanketry). Neither place intereted me and as the game's so old, and I'm so cynical, I can't say it would interest me even as a newcomer.

You see, the bad news is that when you want to start a new mission you have to Quit, at which point the program's dumped and you have to re-Load it all again.

There's a shorter-load game on Side 2 of the cassette, without the crew selection but even then the amount of time spent waiting to play the game isn't justified.

I'd rather go to Tetrasomnia - and I made that one up too.

Label: US Gold
Price: £8.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: John Gilbert

**

A space trader strategy game, but here all reference to Elite ends. Very limited graphics, very old, very dull.

2/5

Screenshot Text

You seem to have problems. Your speed is well short of what you hoped and you're behind schedule. Maybe you chose the wrong crew.