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Microsphere
Not Known
1984
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£5.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

Other Links


82,84
Chris Bourne

There is a graffiti artist in Microsphere's Skool Daze who writes on the blackboard something to the effect that Sky Ranger is great' - a neat piece of pre-publicity for their second release. Sky Ranger is a helicopter. We've remarked before in CRASH how odd it is that software companies tend to have similar ideas at the same time, and there are a few helicopter scenarios around or in the pipeline.

Sky Ranger is situated in a large city full of skyscrapers, which allows for plenty of wire frame 3D. The 3D used here, however, is rather more complex than in most previous games of the type, and generally, the graphics are quite different from other Microsphere games.

The scenario plays heavily on old computer names, somewhat bastardised over the intervening years. It seems there will be a time when Watchers' will be placed in the skies of the city, servants, Mends in the fight to make the city safe. The people will even give them nicknames, calling them after the primitive 20th century computers that delighted the children so much in the museums.

But soon the Rics and the Drags, the Dores and the Trums will have enforced crime so successfully that they will turn to enforcing the lesser offences. Then they will discover the city archives - still packed with ancient and never-repealed laws. The Watchers' have been programmed to enforce the law - and the city lives in fear... Your mission is to seek out and destroy the Watchers using your electronic pulse generator.

The screen contains a view from the helicopter of the city streets. To the left and below the viewscreen are the instruments. These include the ubiquitous fuel gauge, and the machine uses it quite quickly. There are five fuel dumps in the city which can be visited once each during a game. As the city is near the sea and fogs swirl in rapidly, a ceiling gauge shows the height of the cloud level. There is also an altitude meter and a speedo. Centrally placed is the all important compass and dose range radar on which the Watchers appear. A five letter band indicates your proximity to a fuel dump, with the appropriate letter flashing. Destroying Watchers is done by firing when they are in the centre of the vid screen and the target indicator flashes red.

There are various skill levels which are accessed as in Wheelie through codes gained by completing a level. One aspect which makes the game harder is that the viewscreen is vulnerable to contact with buildings or watchers, and easily becomes cracked. These cracks remain with you during a game, making it increasingly harder to see where you are flying.

CRITICISM

'Sky Ranger takes 3D perspective down to a land's eye view as opposed to a bird's eye view. Flying through and over and around skyscrapers of varying heights is quite fun, seeing the well drawn line graphics whizz past you, and mastering the skills of flying round tight corners and reacting instantaneously to what you might find round them. I was a little surprised to find a game produced by Microsphere that had a lack of content. Flying around a city trying to locate and destroy the Watchers, is not my idea of fantastic fun. Okay, you have to refuel now and again, but that's not such a big deal. If you collide with a watcher, part of your screen cracks and shatters like a cobweb, very realistic indeed. But if you crash into the ground or into a skyscraper, you get one or two whacking big zig zag lines from the top to the bottom of the screen, and this makes life quite disconcerting, trying to seek and destroy with these huge lines down the centre of the screen. I would have thought it would have been quite adequate to just have the shattered cobweb effect, as this doesn't really destroy your vision but gives a nice effect. Not one of Microsphere's most entertaining games, I think they should stick to original ideas with wonderful graphics.'

'While first playing this game I was amazed to see an unthoughtful layout of the screen - it was cluttered and untidy, and difficult to make out what various instruments were and what they were used for. One thing Microsphere have always managed is to have a tidy looking screen. There's no doubting the quality of the 3D graphics - the black line on a yellow ground with hidden lines masked out makes for a very realistic effect, and instead of the usual few scattered towers, here we have the feeling of flying through a real city. The real problem is that the game starts to pall after a while. Once the novelty of the graphics has become familiar you start to long for more action, and it is here that the game lacks somewhat. The 'Watchers' are not all that frequent, and although they will dash at you, they do not fire or protect themselves. Great graphics, but a bit thin on plot - surprising for Microshere.'

'This is the first game that Microsphere have produced that has line graphics. As one would expect, the line graphics are drawn efficiently and quickly to produce skyscraper style trenches and 3D perspective. The known features of this game are night flying, fog, which blanks out the details and descends quite rapidly at times (usually when you could well do without it). It is quite fun to fly about through the skyscraper corridors trying to track down 'Watchers' and destroy them. On the higher levels, 'Watchers' become more intelligent and more abundant. A high degree of skill is needed to get rid of them. I like the way that your windscreen is cobwebbed with cracks if you should hit a 'Watcher', but I found the large cracks that appear if you hit the ground too hard, or a building, begin to get in the way of the game. Overall quite a good flying game that maybe requires a bit more content to make it top notch.'

COMMENTS
Control keys
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: sensible and avoids attribute problems
Graphics: excellent 3D detail, oddly untidy on the instruments
Sound: not much, mostly a sound for the helicopter speed
Skill levels: progressive with access codes
Lives: percentage of damage
Screens: 1
Special Features:
General Rating: Above average for content, very good for graphics, perhaps a disappointment coming from Microsphere, but still a good flying game.

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