Why, oh why (Point of View phrase there) can't we live together in peace and harmony. That's all the Universe wants, just a bit of quiet. But, oh no there's always another rogue planet needing a hero. This time it's Nebulithone and the hero is Trantor who has to stamp out the threat of universal domination again.
Upon loading you are shown a short sequence depicting Trantor's ship landing on the planet. And what a ship. The graphics are amazing. The ground scrolls up to meet it. When it lands, bouncing on its landing gear, a small figure emerges, waves (hi Trantor) and then is thrown to the ground as the ship explodes.
The menu sequence then appears, with all the usual options such as joystick of keyboard selection and define keys. This would not be worth mentioning if it were not for the very impressive layout and attention to detail. An inrush of stars forms the Probe logo which then flips and drops to the bottom of the screen. Then four pseudo-digitised icons appear to form the options and very smoothly flip if and when selected The title music that plays is good, even excellent.
I have had my Spectrum for 3 years now, but was in no way prepared for the quality of the game that had been crammed into 48K. It starts with Trantor standing next to the lift he came down on. What a fine specimen of a sprite he is too. Fully 8 character blocks high, if not more, he makes the characters of Street Fighter look small. Trantor is excellently designed, standing in a traditional Arnold Salt-and-Pepper pose, with his feet slightly apart and his flame-thrower lovingly cradled in his arms. It can fire just over half the distance between him and the edge of the screen, sometimes that's enough... As ever the denizens of the planet have to be wiped out. Some of them don't want to be.
The planet is made up of a network consisting of a maze of corridors connected by lifts. Floating round the corridors are the assorted bad guys. Some are robot eyes that hover above you for a couple of seconds and then dive at you, some are fishlike and swim around aimlessly. Contact with any of them drains energy so shoot immediately and apologise later.
The highlight of the game for me is the animation of Trantor. His running is the most realistic I have seen on any 8-bit computer and even bears comparison with some of the 16-bit stuff. His body actually moves up and down when he runs and his jumps are akin to those of Tal, in Sacred Armour of Antiriad, only bigger.
The game is pretty simple - that's not a criticism. Just run around shooting things and searching lockers and computers for an 8 letter password that will blow up the planet - shades of Impossible Mission. To get letters, search computers, of which there is one in nearly every corridor. You'll also find lockers. These may contain items which may either help or hinder.
Most of the corridors look alike - endless metallic alleyways. There is one, though, which is my personal favourite, which looks like it has been carved from solid rock. The walls are curved and have a particularly rocky feel to them.
Should Trantor run out of energy or time, he then collapses in a heap and explodes into static. Possibly the best death sequence ever seen on a micro...
Congratulations to Probe for the coding and if Go! continue at this high standard, it'll wipe out the competition.
Price: £8.99/£12.99 disc
Reviewer: Tony Dillon
Fire-shooting fun with excellent gameplay and some of the best animated graphics seen on the Spectrum.
PROBE is one of the hottest software development teams aruond at the moment. So far the team has worked on Arkanoid and Slapfight from Ocean and Enduro Racer for Activision along with Metrocross from US Gold. Probe deals with fifty programmers all over the UK (whose identities are kept largely secret) and is currently working on Outrun, both for US Gold.