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Martech Games Ltd
1987
Arcade: Adventure
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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36
Gwyn Hughes
Chris Bourne

There are twenty three good reasons to buy Martech's new game according to Gwyn Hughes. He's well and truly caught!

Wire frame graphics. Patrols of enemy tanks. Minefields. Shooting. It sounds like Battlezone, right? I was hoping for a nice cosy tank turret. That's when I discovered the catch.

The catch is that, in this game, you're on foot, trudging the enemy occupied island in search of the CK 23 orbital interceptor - a piece of kit capable of shuttling from the atmosphere into space then dropping back to knock out enemy missiles. A weapon so terrifying Ronnie Reagan already has two dozen on order!

It takes a hero to tackle a problem of this scale which is why they chose you. So stopping only to pick up a parachute and don your Dr Scholls size eleven army boots, you drop onto the island. It's ten at night and you check in at the first of the many ghost towns.

Plenty of time to complete the mission, you may think. Catch number two - eight hours is barely long enough to complete a game of this complexity. Catch number three - you'll probably be killed within minutes. A major military installation like this is thoroughly guarded, by foot soldiers and armoured vehicles.

Your objective is to search and destroy. Find the heart of the complex, discover the secret documents and steal the design for the CK 23, set a time bomb in the reactor... then scarper. Couldn't be simpler could it? The brains back home even gave you a map. Time for another catch though. The cartographers were far from complete so you'll have to do the detail work as you go.

Hot on the heels of catch four comes number five, namely the resistance. The resistance was formed by seventeen heroic scientists who were abducted to work on the project. They escaped their labs and took refuge in the deserted buildings of the island, communicating by computer. If you can find the houses containing the terminals, you can access them for information... but only if you can discover the Logon code words.

To give you a little help, intelligence has provided you with brief biographical sketches which may contain clues. But catch number - err, six - is that they've only identified sixteen of the scientists, and it could take some time to break the security system, even with the information that you've got. After that, it's plain sailing!

So there you are, standing in a deserted main square in one of the island's 14 sectors and a quick look at your status panel tells you which one you're in and your direction of travel. But it also indicates that this is a high risk area and sure enough, every game starts with a bang as an infantryman pops out of nowhere in front of you.

At times like this there's only one sensible course of action - shoot first and ask questions later! Sure enough you're now controlling a gun sight.

Survive your first encounter and you can search further. Most of the buildings had their doors sealed by the enemy, to stop snoopers like you, but in their haste they missed a few, so when you find a door it's time to slip into Investigate mode.

Once you've inside you may just find empty shelves, but there could also be more ammunition, explosives or batteries for your mine detector. Of course, if it's a scientist's house, there'll be a terminal, and an object to give you a clue to its owner.

Out into the township again and it's time to search for a shuttle. The island is equipped with a complex system of transport and your map indicates the principle routes, but there are plenty more to discover. A good trick is to set a bomb on a time fuse then get out fast, so that troops will come rushing from your destination to investigate the explosion.

It's hard to do justice to a game of this scale. Learning to play it takes long enough, success could take months. But I've never seen anything quite so large or complex before. Its main failing is that the wire-frame buildings don't feature 'rub-out', so that all their walls are visible. This can be confusing until you're accustomed to it, but eventually you'll sort it out.

The final catch is that the size and complexity of Catch 23 could turn it into a cult... but I reckon it will be a sizeable cult amongst people who don't have complexes about getting deeply into a game!

Simply superb wire frame action on a vast scale as you shoot it out and search the cities and swamps of a huge island.

8/10
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The top line of your head-up display tells you the sector you're in and the time. Outdoors it shows if there's a motorised patrol in the area. When it turns red, they've found you so start scrawling your will!

Let's see you draw, pardner! Whenever a soldier appears be prepared to target his body and fire. With limited ammo you can't afford a second shot, even if you have time for one.

Setting a time-bomb is achieved by pressing B then inputting the time in minutes and seconds from the keyboard. You could spend the time while it ticks down looking for more explosives indoors.

The compass divides into eight directions and also indicates the source of radio transmissions, and therefore the nearest enemy action. To turn through 45 degrees press fire and the turn key.

The dangerometer is an invaluable device which indicates how many enemies there are in the area. Discretion is the better part of valour and survivors don't pick fights.

Ammunition, indicated here, is strictly limited, and as shown in the main window, you only carry three extra clips. Luckily most houses stock your favourite brand of dum-dums!

You board the shuttles by investigating these stops. Unlike buses, there's no waiting in the rain either! Keep an eye on the passing landscape for interesting features.