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Melbourne House
1989
Strategy: War
£9.99
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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79
Chris Bourne

Melbourne House, £9.99cs, £14.99dk
PC version reviewed Issue 17 - ACE rating 914

Frodo has the same aim in the 8-bit versions of War in Middle Earth as he does in the 16-bit game reviewed three issues ago, but the way the player gets involved is radically different.

For a start, there simply isn't room on cassette-based systems for the detailed 16-bit location graphics found at character level: indeed the character level is not present. The adventure element is also missing: there's no need to go in search of items to give to leaders of the races of Middle Earth before their forces are put under your command. All forces allied to the cause of good accept your orders the moment the game starts.

The main map screen gives an overview of Middle Earth, and action takes place while it is displayed. Moving a pointer over a location on the main map and pressing fire calls up the more detailed, scrolling Campaign Map. Here orders can be given to units, locations and armies can be examined in more detail and status information on your allies called up. While the Campaign Map is accessed, game time is paused. The strategic element of the 8-bit versions is true to life - you don't get to see the deployment of Sauron's forces on the Campaign Map, so the only way to find out where his armies are is by running into them.

The combat sequences are much more detailed. Rather than just selecting a couple of options from a menu, you can pitch in and join the fray. When two opposing armies meet, the display can be changed to give a view of the conflict and the player is allowed to influence the outcome of battle by using a cursor system to direct the actions of individual soldiers. Your troops don't go into attack on a battlefield, but wait patiently until they are either attacked or told who to fight.

As would be expected, there's not so much graphic detail in 8-bit versions of War in Middle Earth, but if anything there's more of a challenge, with the option to set levels of difficulty. Fans of the Mike Singleton approach to games design will recognise his touch.

851/1000

Banner Text

SPECTRUM VERSION

Proved a little awkward to load at first, but apart from the Spectrum's graphical limitations, every bit as good as its 8-bit stablemates.

C64 VERSION

Clanking sounds that accompany battles wear thin after a while.

Ace Rating: 856/1000

AMSTRAD VERSION

The game is marginally better suited to the Amstrad's capabilities.

Ace Rating: 856/1000

Screenshot Text

C64 - The main map screen which shows Middle Earth in its entirety. The finger icon is used to access the Campaign Level.

C64 - On the Campaign Level the cursor becomes a magnifying glass which is used to call up detail on units and places.

Amstrad - 8-bit version of War in Middle Earth allow the player to really mix it during battles. Your troops don't attack opposing creatures - they just stand still, defending themselves if attacked. It's up to you to direct individual soldiers by selecting them with the cursor and giving them an objective to attack. The bad guys naturally ignore orders...