Do you remember Star Raiders I? it was one of the very first programs ever produced for the old Atari 400 machine. A mixture of hurtling through space blowing things to bits with a bit of strategy - working out what things to blow up first. At the time the graphics looked pretty special and even much later on Jeff Minter declared it to be his favourite game ever.
Now we have Staf Raiders II, a game which features the same sort of pseudo 3D effects and similar strategy elements. It even continues the old plot, though how many people will remember the Celos IV star system and the dreaded Zylons?
Never mind. Just assume that a whole lot of bad guys are invading the good (peace-loving, warm and friendly) guy's galaxy. Unfortunately all reasonable attempts at a negotiated peace have failed (big surprise) so you'll just have, to kill them. Drat.
This is not any kind of quasi-simulation. Things are kept nice and simple and that's good. Apart from joystick moves you only have to manage switching information screens and switching shields on and off.
This isn't to say there aren't quite a lot of things to think about. Where to attack first is one thing. How long you can risk it before you absolutely have to go and get repaired at a space station is another. When to turn your shields off is a third.
The game comes down to roughly three elements: blasting things over planets, blasting things in space and docking,
Blasting happens in two stages. A few waves of the relatively easy to blast X-wing fighter type things followed by a series of considerably larger, better defended and more tubular motherships. Your on-board computer system adapts your weaponry to deal with the different aliens. This means either the buzzing double zap lines style of laser or the big white blob style for the ion cannon (for serious harm).
When over a planet you also have to blast planetary bases and this involves lobbing bombs in front of you as the planet scrolls beneath you. Each bomb blitzes an entire city but don't let that worry you.
The graphics aren't going to blow you away but neither are they actually bad (a distinct improvement on the C64 version anyway). The program adopts some of the space game conventions of old - hyperspace is represented by concentric rings of flashing dots. Space is dots that flicker a bit. 3D is done in the old Codename Mat way of updating a series of increasingly larger shapes to give the illusion of something coming towards you.
Better is the planet surface which uses a moving pattern of colours to give the illusion of movement over differently-shaped land masses. Simple, but it works.
The strength of the game is all in the gameplay - intrinsically works well and holds interest and the graphics are just good enough not to detract from that.
Use your judgement, work out the most important areas to defend first and keep your eyes on the scanners that tell you just how little energy you've got left... will you run for repairs or try to take on one more wave of fighters?
It isn't another Elite, but Star Raiders II is easy to get into and a lot of harmful fun.
Label: Electric Dreams
Author: Gary Stark, Bruce Poelman
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
One of the more entertaining space games. Despite it's rather simple graphics, it's incredibly entertaining.