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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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126
Chris Bourne

Arch rebel Zoltar's quest for galactic domination has caused him to attack a universe containing five planetary systems. A group of young superhumans pit their craft, Phoenix, against Zoltar's Spectran forces. Only the G-Force and their ship Phoenix can prevent Zoltar from destroying all life in the universe under attack.

You control Phoenix. Chasing and destroying enemy ships in space, you also have to fight it out on the surface of planets when Spectran landing craft start eliminating citizens. Once on a civilised world it's possible to refuel, repair and reequip Phoenix by docking with fuel and repair ships. Zoltar's forces only land when your ship is in the same spacetime as them, so the amount of mayhem they cause is limited to some extent!

The Phoenix is equipped with two weapon systems: laser cannons and neutron torpedos. The laser cannons tend to overheat and stop working if they are used continuously, and there's a finite quantity of energy in the laser cells. Phoenix begins with ten torpedos and fully charged laser cells, and must refuel and repair when armaments run low.

Warpgates allow travel between planet systems find one, drive into it and a map of the universe pulls into view. The five systems are numbered, and a quick tap on the appropriate number key warps the Phoenix to your destination.

Status information can be called up into a window at the bottom left of the display, where information on your main power unit, shields, torpedo stocks, laser system and the neighbouring planet can be called up. Learning to flick through the displays is important if you are to monitor the state of play during the mission.

The main area of the screen acts as a cockpit view over which a long range scanner system is imposed. A three dimensional view of space as seen from the ship's bridge employs vector graphics to display planets and enemy craft, with stars moving towards you at a rate governed by your ship's velocity. Two sights are provided: the square neutron torpedo sight remains static in the centre of the screen, while a mobile sight is used to target lasers and steer the ship. Icons representing enemy craft, warp gates and planets are overlayed onto the cockpit view covering an icon with the mobile sight allows you to drive towards the object it represents. The icon disappears when the corresponding ship, gate or planet appears on the main viewscreen.

Some of the enemy craft can be despatched with a few laser hits while others need a couple of torpedos to reduce them to scrap. When you're close to an aggressor your shields take a hammering a hit on an unshielded section of the hull spells instant death.

While you are in the vicinity of a planet, a request for Planet Data reveals the number of enemy landers that are on the surface and the status of the population. If your ship is in the area when a planet's population is eliminated, you die too, so looking after the citizens is more than a noble aim.

To land on a planet, simply head straight for it, and you arrive on autopilot. The view of a planet's surface is presented with a line-drawn horizon that scrolls left and right as you move. Lines parallel to the horizon move towards you to indicate forward motion and speed. The landers are squat, tank like machines which shoot at you while you shoot at them. Fuel and repair ships are represented by spanner and fuel-can icons until you get close, when they become revolving geometric shapes. To dock with a maintenance ship, just drive into it.

You've only go one life to play with in space, so drive carefully!

CRITICISM

'I was an avid fan of the BOW series, and I think I'm going to be a fan of the computer game. I'm glad the game doesn't use the Ill-fated Mikro Plus, because the higher price would surely have devastated its chances of success. The game is similar to Elite and Station graphically, but doesn't seem to have the scope of either of those. It's good if you want a blast 'em up with minimal Intelligence required, and the game is good fun in a general sense, though I wouldn't recommend you rush out and get a copy right now.'

'Battle of the Planets is a sort of Elite without all the hard work of thinking and planning out your strategy. The presentation of the game is very slick and it contains lots of colour without the clashes. The game is nothing like the T.V. series and gets quite boring after a while because it is so easy to stay alive. The long range scanner is thoughtfully arranged and very useful because it is 'on screen' all the time which makes locating Zoltar and his chums quite easy. Both sequences (planet and space) tend to lock up when lots of things appear on the screen, meaning a constant speed is hard to maintain. I thought that the planet sequence was a bit too like 3D Tank Duel - not a very good copy at that. Given the simplicity of the game, I feel it's a bit overpriced.'

'I started getting a bit fed up with this game as I read the 'operating manual' while it loaded. The instructions are unclear and potter into gibberish every so often. The onscreen instructions were difficult to read and only give 'Z' as the torpedo fire key. Z-V works fine! Then it was out into space to do battle. Somehow, I just couldn't get the hang of controlling the game with the keys, and firing the torpedos accurately while steering the ship with a joystick had me beaten. The action can get a bit frantic at times, with all the controls that you need to fiddle with - it wouldn't be so bad if the Phoenix had a crew, but you're on a solo mission ... still, it's not a bad shoot em up.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: O/P, U/I left/right, O-T up, A-G down, B-SPACE fire, 1-5 select scanner, K/J increase/decrease speed, Z-V fire torpedo
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor
Keyboard play: responsive, but can get tricky
Use of colour: colourful display windows
Graphics: fairly speedy wire frame 3D
Sound: opening tune, then firing noises
Skill levels: one
Screens: five planet systems to defend
General Rating: Not a bad shoot em up quest.

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