THE REDS must be wiped out! The battle of the Zoids is about to begin. With the odds stacked in the enemy's favour, can you - a lone Spiderzoid - defeat the might of the Red Zoids and their vicious leader Redhorn the Terrible?
The story is long and painful to hear, but if you read the instruction leaflet with care you will learn the pitiful history of the warring Blue Zoids. Stupidly, they wage war amongst themselves instead of keeping an eye on the rapidly growing forces of the Reds, until, at length, the Reds grow in number and strength.
At last, with desperation, the Blues load their fearsome killer Zoidzilla into a space craft to carry it with a humanoid into the midst of the enemy planet. Here the plan goes awry. The spacecraft crashes on landing, scattering six pieces of Zoidzilla, each of which ends up under a city dome - one in each of six hostile cities.
You, the humanoid, manage to eject from the spacecraft in a Spiderzoid and fuse with that machine to become one entity. Your job is to penetrate the Reds' stronghold and retrieve the pieces of Zoidzilla. As each piece is found, your zoid upgrades in strength and speed until at last you mutate into Zoidzilla itself. Now you can take on Redhorn the Terrible and Mammoth the Destroyer.
Zoids - The Battle Begins is a strategic game with an arcade element. You play in a similar manner to Beyond's Shadowfire via the use of windows and icons.
Sitting inside your Spiderzoid, you can see nothing of the outside world. Your only view of the battles which rage are through the eyes of your zoid. Your instructions must be conveyed in a way which the zoid can understand and carry out - hence the need for icons, cursors and windows.
However, you cannot control the zoid entirely - should you make a move into a dangerous area the Spiderzoid may countermand your instructions and move to a safer place.
There are ten cities in all and only six pieces of Zoidzilla, so four are red herrings. Unfortunately, until you have blown all eight city domes in each city out of existence you cannot tell whether you have been wasting your time. Each city is connected by a valley through mountainous regions patrolled by various members of the Red Zoid army.
Each city has one power station - its most important feature - a radio beacon to alert Redhorn and Mammoth of the breach of the city defences, and a zoidar mine to produce more zoids. The eight city domes in each city are protected by a power shield from the power station. Your first job, therefore, in each city is to blast the power station which then draws the power away from the domes to protect itself. That leaves the domes unprotected for about two minutes.
And so battle is waged, with you trying to storm each city, fight off enemy attacks, identify and destroy the Red Zoids and collect any power pods left in the debris.
Play takes place within a long or short range map in the middle of the screen. Using the move icon, place the cursor in the direction you want to travel and press fire. Your zoid, represented by a yellow square, creeps in that direction.
This stage is extremely boring - the square moves at a snail's pace. You can perform other actions at the same time, however. If possible, switch to the Radio Beacon icon - that gives a picture of the short range map. Now identify the power station, and send a signal to your base on the Blue planet, which despatches a guided missile to blast the station. The missile takes about 30 seconds to reach target.
With the shields down on the city domes you can afford to use the Missile icon and switch to a spot of arcade action. Having identified your target you can now guide the missile through the mountains to the target - represented by a small red cross on the horizon. Your reactions will have to be lightning fast to dodge the mountains.
If you destroy the target you will be shown the city on the short range map and the blob you hit will disappear. Now move into that area and search it with your Scanner icon. The scanner will automatically pick up a piece of Zoidzilla if it's there plus any power pods or raw materials - vital to the success of the mission. Your power decreases as you move and fight, and anything found in the debris will replenish those stores.
The same technique can be used on the zoids. With your missile ready, move the cursor over one of the tiny moving shapes and fire. A zoid of one type will be shown in the window and you can then blast it. When searching the debris you may well come across ammunition it has dropped to replace your depleted stocks.
Another arcade action sequence follows. The window depicts a 3D tunnel with the Red Zoids coming towards you at some speed. You have two tracers which meet at the far end of the tunnel. Moving these left and right, try to eliminate the Reds before they can crash into you. Should that happen the screen will shake wildly to register a hit and your power will rapidly decrease.
Other icons are Zoid ID, which identifies objects and Red Zoids; Status which gives you a run down on power, ammunition, damage sustained and the number of pieces of Zoidzilla collected; Guns - largely redundant as the only time you need the guns is when you are being attacked and the computer switches to that option automatically; and Info - again redundant as Zoid ID identifies objects as well.
A game with a difference, Zoids is worth a blast if only to see the might of Redhorn the Terrible and Zoidzilla locked in combat. It should appeal to strategists and arcade freaks alike.
Programmers: Electronic Pencil
A close up view of the city with control icons and power status
Homing in on a City Dome ... and its ultimate destruction.