1986
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£14.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

22,23,24
Chris Bourne

For many years, the planet of Novenia was at peace. An automated defence system, called the Sentinels, kept unwelcome callers from outer space at bay. These huge monoliths didn't ask questions - they just blew away anything that they didn't like the look of.

All went well until the Sentinels destroyed a harmless flock of protected interplanetary migratory birds called Stargliders. The Sentinels were immediately reprogrammed not to blow these rather bizarre creatures to bits. Although ecologically sound, this produced a fatal flaw in the Novenian defence system - the ruthless Egrons attacked in ships disguised as Stargliders, thus fooling the defence computers. Once past the Sentinels, there was no stopping them. Novenia relied on the Sentinels and did not maintain any conventional forces. So Novenia was conquered.

Jason and Katra, two Sentinel repair workers, witnessed the death and destruction from the safety of one of Novenia's moons. The two heroes embark on a mission - to destroy the invading aliens singlehanded. All they have at their disposal is an obsolete museum piece of a fighter equipped with lasers and capable of carrying two missiles.

There are more than sixteen different types of Egron craft to destroy and each craft must be dealt with in a slightly different way. The action takes place on the blasted wastes of what was once Novenia, and the antiquated fighter is guided around the dust-laden atmosphere using a co-ordinate system which divides the planet's surface into a grid of 100 units by 100 units.

Two types of sight are available - fixed and floating - and a choice is made before the game starts. Floating sights affect the control of the ship - the AGAV 'follows' the sights. Fixed sights remain in the centre of the screen, and the ship must be manoeuvred until the target appears in target square. An optional centering system may be enabled or disabled at the start of the game - automatic centering can be effected on either the vertical or the horizontal axis, in all directions, or not at all. With fully automatic centering, the fighter returns to flying straight and level when it is left to its own devices.

Two versions of the game have been programmed - the 'standard' 48K version and a much enhanced 128K/+2 version. The enhanced version includes digitised speech (the dulcet tones of one Clare Edgeley), a three-voice title tune and missions that either involve destroying an invader or picking up some extra bolt-on goodies for the fighter. Custom add-ons include super missiles with more fuel, power packs which temporarily dispense with the need to refuel, and a rear view mirror (presumably so that the ancient craft will pass its MOT!) In the enhanced version, particularly unpleasant meanies are encountered on the higher levels, to even out the advantage which the extra equipment gives.

At the start of the game, the airborne ground attack vehicle (AGAV) piloted by Jason and Katra is flying close to a repair depot. These depots are vital to the success of the mission. They rotate slowly, and the entry port on one side must be entered accurately, at low speed. Once inside, damage is repaired and a missile, if available, is attached to the craft. Each depot produces one missile every few minutes, but there is never more than one available each time the AGAV is docked. Before relaunching, the depot computer can be accessed for information on enemy craft.

After re-launching, it is vital to note the co-ordinates of the depot so the AGAV can return when necessary. The only vital commodity not provided by the depots is energy - this has to be collected by using the inductive power lines which criss-cross the planet's surface (they can be recognised by the tall towers that support them). Collecting power requires delicate manoeuvring, and there are usually plenty of meanies scattered around trying to stop the AGAV tanking up.

The AGAV's instrument panel includes horizontal bars that reveal the status of the shields, reserves of power and fuel levels, while two vertical indicators give the height and speed of the craft. The height bar flashes red if the craft is close to the ground and in danger of crashing - hitting the ground does the shields no good at all.

When a missile is fired, the view is supplied by a remote camera on board the missile. Missiles have a limited amount of fuel, fly very fast and have a wide turning circle. Consequently, a missile must be homed in on its target before the fuel runs out - so the target must be fairly close. Generally, there's not usually time to circle round and try again...

It takes three missile hits to destroy an Egron Starglider. As the AGAV can only carry two missiles at once you've got to go and find a depot with a missile ready, dock, and then find the Starglider again, even it you score two direct hits. The reward comes when an Egron Starglider is destroyed - an 'instant replay' of the moment of destruction appears on screen.

After 10,000 points have been scored, the game moves to the next level where the Egron craft take more hits before being destroyed....

CRITICISM

'Starglider, without doubt, ranks amongst the best games to grace the Spectrum's screen. The whole of the game is excellently done, and its presentation and packaging has been executed in a most professional manner. The loading screen sets the player up for the game-of-the-year on any computer. If you've seen the Atari ST Starglider then you'll be amazed at the Spectrum version because they're so alike! The sound effects are extremely good, and very effective. The number of frames of animation is unbelievable - it's just so smooth and incredibly fast. The options are vast and very useful. There's certainly a pot of gold at the end of the RAINBIRD (Eugh!).'

'Wizz nesaw zoom! ... Zap zap zap kapow! Budda budda budda. This really is my kind of game. It combines a fantastic shoot em up with a bit of brain work (but not as much as Starstrike II). From the word go it is easy to get totally enthralled in the world of Novenia, especially if you read the 64 page novelette (if you can tear yourself away from the game!) I can see myself playing this for weeks. Graphically Starglider is the best vector graphics game to date - my only niggle is that in a game of this quality it's a shame that no one's worked out a way of erasing objects and horizons that appear behind other objects. The sound is a bit disappointing: there are no tunes but the effects are well used. If you are a fan of shoot em ups or vector graphics then this must take pride of place in your software collection. Go and buy it, you won't regret it.'

'Wowee!! The last time I saw a game that made me go into the same sort of totally freaked-out ultra-amazed mode was Starstrike II, also by REALTIME. This one is even better, to the extent that I don't think I can find fault with it. The animated vector graphics are just sooo great! The whole thing is destined to become a classic. I think I'd go as far as to say that If this was in the arcades then I'd spend a fair bit of time throwing ten pences into it. If you're the not-so-proud owner of a 48K machine, then I suggest that you go and buy it now. If on the other hand, you've got a Plus 2, then buy this, and spend the rest of your existence playing it (until the follow up, anyway!)'

The 128K version represents quite an enhancement on the 48K game. It deserves a separate critical comment and a revised set of ratings. 'Starglider on the 128K is far superior to the 48K version and indeed to any other 128K games that I've seen to date. I had difficulty believing that a humble (but fat) Spectrum could actually produce a game this fast and with so many sound effects. Graphically, this is no step forward from the 48K, except that you get a few more nasties on the higher levels. The sound is the best I have ever heard on a Spectrum: there is an excellent David Lowe tune on the title screen and some worthy effects during play. Above all, there is speech the like of which has never been heard on the Spectrum (it even knocks the stuffing out of the Atari ST version). The voice is recognisably that of nice Clare Edgeley from RAINBIRD who actually gives you useful bits of information (like when you are going to die) during the game. If you are a 128K owner who is getting a bit fed up 'cos there isn't really any neat software around for your machine this will restore your faith. Halleluja!'

COMMENTS
Control keys
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Use of colour: helpful
Graphics: incredible speed and animation
Sound: good effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: wraparound play area
General Rating: It's hard to imagine a better shoot em up.

97%
95%
96%
94%
98%
95%
97%

Screenshot Text

Approaching the power towers... it's time to refuel.

The is the view provided by a remote camera mounted in a missile as it homes on on Starglider One.

During refuelling, you're a sitting duck. Thankfully, this missile just missed your fighter.

THE COMPASS

Gives the AGAV's heading.

LASER SIGHT

Floats as the AGAV is moved.

LASER FIRE

Two bolts of light flash towards the doomed Bute fighter.

LASER ENERGY

Topped up at depots: no energy, no firing!

SHIELDS

Depleted by enemy fire and replenished at depots.

ALTITUDE

Flashes when dangerously low.

PLASMA ENERGY

The AGAV's fuel; replenished at the power lines.

RADAR

Gives the position of all objects near the ship.

SPEED

...keep it low while docking.

CO-ORDINATES

This gives the ship's precise position.