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Mikro-Gen Ltd
Chris Hinsley
1986
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£9.95
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
Unspecified custom loader

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62
Clare Edgeley
Chris Bourne

MIKRO-GEN is breaking into space to escape from the Wally family. Battle of the Planets is about protection and high speed laser-blasting matches. Join the G-Force and defeat the evil Zoltar who's invading your galaxy!

Unlike the marvellous, colourful, Wally screens, Battle of the Planets uses wireframe graphics, like so many space games before it. It resembles in style both Starion and Elite, though the game is not as complex as either.

Your aim is simple enough: defeat Zoltar. Putting that into practice is another matter. With five planets to patrol and numerous enemy craft, your work is cut out.

To help, Mikro-Gen has provided comprehensive status screens, enabling you to tell at a glance the condition of your shields, fuel, rocket and laser power, together with data on each planet you land on - namely how many of the enemy have got there before you and what damage they have inflicted on the population.

There are two small windows at the bottom of the screen. The left hand one contains the five status screens described above and those can be accessed by pressing keys one to five. The right hand window displays symbols for each of the status screens, for instance a rocket or shield, and those flash from green through amber to red as they run out and reach danger level. That gives you the chance to dock on a planet to refuel or make the necessary repairs.

Now for the game... You find yourself hurtling through space and the object is to knock out the symbols representing the bad guys. Centre the cross-hairs of your laser sights over an enemy symbol and fire while flying towards it. Within a few seconds you should see the enemy, a small dot in the distance, sweeping towards you.

Now comes the tricky bit. Your laser sights double as a navigational cursor. Do not let the enemy craft get away. If it shoots off the bottom of the screen, follow with the cursor and hopefully that should bring it back into view. By this time it should be large enough to present you with an easy target.

However, on one screen in particular, the enemy craft dodge and twist so violently that it is almost impossible to centre the cross-hairs long enough to take a shot. Not only that, most of the craft need more than one direct hit before they blow up.

While you're playing tag with the enemy they're shooting at you so it is a good idea to flick to the relevant status screens to check your shields and fuel. If they are low you must dock to make repairs. That also gives the opportunity to check the planet's status for enemy landers.

Look for the planet symbol on the screen, centre the cursor over it and fly towards it. You'll soon notice a small round object coming into view. Try to keep it in the centre and as it threatens to engulf the screen, you'll fly through a tunnel to dock with it.

Once on the planet, make your repairs and refuel by flying towards the spanner and fuel tank symbols. Those will turn into huge, revolving, many faceted balls, and when you get close close enough a message appears to say you have docked.

Landers can be a problem. They destroy the life on the planet and your shields if they get the chance. Check on the status screen to see if any are around. A second cursor which remains stationary at the centre of the screen is for the rockets. Just press the Z key and a rocket will wing its way slowly to the target. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to keep the lander in the target area long enough for the rocket to make contact. However, it's a damned sight easier than using the rockets on the space screen.

To get off the planet, just press the joystick forward and increase your thrust. Within a few moments you'll be back in space. Maybe it's time to take a trip to one of the other solar systems. Move towards the hyperspace gate symbol and as it swirls and twirls into the screen, try to keep it in view.

The effect of leaping into hyperspace is excellent, just like the Star Wars films, the stars rush towards you in a blur as your speed is increased a hundred-fold. A map of the planets and their solar systems appears on screen. Press a key to choose which to visit.

Instantly, you will be in a similar situation as before, but the symbols and aliens depicted in a different colour. The aliens also change on each screen, some easier to hit, others harder, some move fast, others slow. In each case you must keep checking your shields and fuel. You have only one life, and though it is simple enough to get the repairs done, it is also easy to forget and find the aliens have taken over the planets or destroyed your ship.

Battle of the Planets is by no means a simple game. A fair amount of strategy is needed and a thorough knowledge of the status screens. For instance, if you increase your thrust to take off from a planet and forget to decrease, the engine temperature will shoot into danger level and eventually finish you off.

The wireframe graphics are impressive and fast. The effect of speeding over the planet's surface is realistic, especially when you increase your thrust. It takes a while to get used to the symbols and what they represent, but once you have, it's plain shooting all the way.

A lot of work has gone into the game. It's packed with detail, though the five planets and their solar systems and aliens become repetitive after a while. Nevertheless, congratulations to Chris Hinsley, who programmed it.

On the whole, though, I'm not a space games freak. I'd say bring back the Wallys any week.

Clare Edgeley

Publisher: Mikro-Gen
Programmer: Chris Hinsley
Price: £9.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair

****

4/5

Screenshot Text

Turmoil in space.

Battle on the planet's surface.