Micromega
1984
Arcade: Action
£6.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

20,22
Chris Bourne

Micromega describes Braxx Bluff as a 'Multi-screen 3D rescue', and in their search for the new, say it is the last of their series of 3D games, although 3D may well pop up now and again in future titles.

Centuries from now, man has progressed far beyond the limits of the solar system and has begun to explore distant worlds in search of knowledge and resources. The risk of danger is ever present and in every new system an Intergalactic Rescue Cruiser stands at readiness. It is a powerfully equipped orbital search and rescue vessel manned by volunteers of the Life Corps. You are one such and today the emergency at Braxx Bluff will make you a hero, or just a memory...

Lifeship Vega has achieved orbit around the planet Prolon in response to an emergency call from the planet's explorations team, who have left their ship and gone off in the hydrocrawler and then fallen foul of the crawler's power-plant and the craft now lies in the treacherous terrain of Braxx Bluff, its occupants dying as the life-support system fails. Your mission is to walk on foot to the crawler - if you can find it - and get it back to base-ship before the crew dies. The nearest possible site to the stranded crawler has been marked with an ILS beacon. The game starts with you sitting in your shuttle slung under the bulk of the Lifeship. From your viewscreen you can see the underside of the ship above you and Prolon below. A keypress undocks and you glide down to skim the planet's atmosphere, then dip in and the game is away. The display shows you the view from your cockpit with two small circles to either side with a dot in each of them. Below the circles is the score. The circles are your ILS beacon and the object is to keep the dot in the very centre. The more it stays there the higher your score gets. To land on the runway you must score at least 8.0 points. As you dive down to the ground (judge by the altimeter) the 3D effect becomes stronger as the surface of the planet rushes up towards you. Don't forget to fire retro rockets on touch down!

Now you will have to walk on through the rocky landscape to find the crawler. Your only clue is the SOS signal it sends out - that and your score which increases when going in the right direction and decreases if not. You are unprotected and easy meat for the deadly 'Krittas'. It's hard to walk and aim your laser at the same time. If you find the crawler, a large graphic of it appears with you walking into its dubious safety. On the other hand the 30 power units you are carrying give it a boost.

Three wavy lines appear on the side - the crew members' life traces - a straight one means a dead man! You must now set off along the narrow twisting track to safety, first through the ruined city and then through a deadly swamp. All the way the creatures are swooping to attack the power plant. Any that get past your crawler laser will drain another unit of precious energy Unfortunately it is impossible for one man to steer and fire at the same time.

The final barrier is the acid sea. The crawler cannot float, but can skim at high speed across the surface infested with huge rocks which must be steered between. At least out here there are no 'Krittas'. On the other hand you must listen to the pitch of the direction finder to reach the base ship. For successful rescuers, the finale has you beaching the crawler by the ship and walking into it to be greeted by the commander's face. He's not impressed, you were a bit slow, and anyway, it's all in a day's work for a member of the Life Corps, so have another go...

CRITICISM

'Micromega has established itself as a house that comes out with solid ideas, well executed, and games that have a high playability and addictivity content. Braxx Bluff is no exception, again I must confess to having been disappointed with the graphics at first. After Deathchase, Code Name Mat and Full Throttle, these seem very simplistic. True enough the start screen is impressive, but the rest is made up of crude square blocks. But the astonishing thing is, that the more you play this game the better the graphics seem to be! The simplicity allows a high speed 3D effect movement, best seen in the first stage - landing your shuttle, and the impression of rocks, buildings etc. is very effective. As to the game - well it isn't an easy one at all. The difficulty elements of not being able to steer and fire, and that of having to navigate by score and sound combine to make this an addictive game and a challenge. It's definitely not at all like any previous Micromega game, although the last stage is similar in feel to Deathchase. It also has a lot of variability in the different stages and after being doubtful at first, I'm now an ardent addict.'

'The strange block graphics work effectively to create a strong impression of 3D in this hyper active game. I like the way you have to cope with keeping the crawler's speed up to save the crew members' lives (and those little wavy life traces add an element of panic as they smooth out!) and yet be able to slow enough to safely shoot the creatures before they get past you. When you are firing the laser, the crawler just keeps on its last heading, so it's very easy to run off the narrow road. Braxx Bluff is a rather strange game, but I thought it was appealing and certainly a hard challenge. To help the player gain that just-another-go-for-a-high-score feeling, you can save your position and score after each stage and then load it back again. This is quite a neat way of stopping you always having to go back to the start. The SAVE and LOAD is very quick.'

'After Braxx Bluff had loaded and the impressive title screen had disappeared, I thought we'd have to eat our words about saying that reviewing Micromega games was a treat. But after playing it for a few hours I changed my mind, and in my view now, it's a really good game. Okay, the graphics ain't brill, very simple in fact, but they work and the 3D effect is pulled off pretty nicely - better to have simple, working 3D graphics, than excellently drawn graphics which just cause a mess as soon as they touch each other. This is an excellent value for money program and well deserves a place by Deathchase, Code Name Mat and Full Throttle. The game may not grab you at first but the more you play, the more you'll like it. Definitely addictive and another winner from Micromega. A pity it has to be their last 3D game, but we live in hope!'

COMMENTS
Control keys: user-definable with selected keys always on display on screen.
Cursor keys: are preset
Joystick: almost any via UDK
Keyboard play: very responsive
Use of colour: simple, but varied between screens and well used
Graphics: very good 3D effect, character movement on backgrounds is a little jerky, but the character animation works well
Sound: well used as a real element of playing
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 1
Screens: 5 playing screens, 3 in between screens
General Rating: Slow starter in affection stakes, proves to be highly addictive and playable, good value.

82%
87%
91%
93%
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87%

Screenshot Text

Three lie inside awaiting recue.

View from inside the Crawler.