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Not Known
1984
Strategy: Management
£6.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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36
Chris Bourne

The game requires the skills of a shrewd trader and a fast trigger, it claims at the start of the instructions in the two-part load of this new Bug-Byte game. However, for those not so keen on the space arcade action, it's possible to avoid confrontation by not arming your cargo ship with a laser, although it means almost certainly having to pay a tribute to marauding pirates. Mercifully, Star Trader has short and to the point instructions on the screen, so there's no need of a ZX Printer, Eidetic memory or Pitman shorthand skills.

The game falls essentially into two distinct parts, the strategy buying and selling bit on the various planets, and the space travel bits where you are likely to meet and be engaged in combat by pirates after your cargo. The trading takes place over eight planets and involves eight commodities - grain, guns, tools, timber, wine, clothing, oil and gold. A picture on the left of the screen shows the space port which, rather like Holiday Inns, looks the same whichever planet you are on.

Should you enter a trading establishment it is replaced by a large picture of the trader in question who, rather like Holiday Inn managers, looks the same whichever shop on whichever planet you are on or in. To be fair, the traders have different coloured eyes, hair, sometimes have moustaches, sometimes hats, but the identikit pic feeling persists!

At a spaceport you may opt to go in (to take off) and will be asked which destination you wish. You may be refused permission if you are medically unfit, a situation remedied by resting and eating good food! When you arrive at your destination you can list your goods in the customs hall, declare all, nothing or part of them or bribe the customs officer and part with appropriate money accordingly.

If you don't enter the spaceport the options open are to go to a farm, a gunsmith's, a tool shop, sawmill, wine merchant's clothes shop, fuel merchant's, jeweller's, pub, hotel or general store. It is from the general store that you can buy the essential lasers and power packs with which to defend your ship from pirates. In a shop you can buy or sell, but it's worth keeping an eye on the economic status report which will tell you what buying and selling prices are at all the planets in all commodities. The other thing to keep an eye on is the time of day as the shops and spaceports tend to close at night and for lunch - pubs and hotels also have appropriate opening times.

The arcade sequences take place in space and the screen shows a viewscreen in which planets can be seen moving in simulated 3D. If you have no laser on board, then pirate attacks and tributes are merely reported, but if you are armed then the enemy ships can be seen swooping in on you, firing.

Laser power and ship's shield strength run down quickly and if you don't want the game to end it is worth surrendering before you are killed as the pirates are fairly sensible chaps and usually leave you with something to trade with at your destination. The object of the game, obviously, is to get rich!

CRITICISM

'The graphics, though there aren't many on the trader part of the game, are well drawn as are the ones in the arcade part. There is very little sound except when you are shooting aliens and what there is of it is rather poor. This game is fun if you like trading games and is fun to play with friends. The added bonus of the arcade game is a good idea after trading goods all day (how peaceful)! It gives people like me (psychopathic killers) a chance of knocking off the odd pirate. I didn't think it was a very good game overall but it may appeal to the more peaceful members of the computer gaming universe.'

'This is a game that is playable but will take a long time to play if you don't get killed off by pirates. Graphics are very detailed and colourful, but where has the sound disappeared to? I found whizzing off to planets to sell goods quite fun although the in between arcade sequences seem a little long and drawn out. Keyboard input is usually one touch. Quite a playable game, if you've got the time.'

'Star Trader represents an advance over the space trading game like Quicksilva's old Trader, in as much as the latter was a linear game with a start and a definite end. In this game you can keep playing until your money runs out. In general I thought the content was a little lacking with most problems arising from becoming hungry at inconvenient moments or concluding your trading to find the spaceport closed. The graphics overall are quite good, and the arcade sequence is very nice although your ship does look rather antiquated (Dan Dare-ish). The 3D effect is simple but works, although I couldn't figure out why they had gone to the trouble of showing planets moving towards you (you can steer) but which didn't need avoiding as they do it all by themselves. It seems a bit pointless. Nothing really startling or new here, but a user-friendly program which I enjoyed reasonably well.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: cursors
Joystick: Kempston, ZX 2, AGF, Protek
Keyboard play: mostly single input, responsive on arcade sequences
Use of colour: good
Graphics: generally good, large and detailed
Sound: very poor
Skill levels: 1
Originality: the trading concept is hardly new, nor the combination with arcade action, but this game does have "a fresh look and is well implemented.
General Rating: Above average.

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Screenshot Text

Space pirates threaten you cargo in Star Trader.

Like any good Holiday Inn manager, the traders tend to look alike...