In December 1973 the deep space probe Pioneer 10 passed Jupiter and left the solar system for good. Or so mankind thought. In it was a plaque informing extra-terrestrial life forms of the whereabouts of planet Earth.
Right, let's just fast forward to the future. 3021 AD, to be exact. Pioneer returns aboard a huge alien spaceship wanting to contact mankind. Bit of a problem though: it crash-landed on Earth, almost squashing our hero in the process! Apparently, pirates had boarded the craft and smashed it up; the ship's computer retaliated by setting the self destruct mechanism. So Earth now faces the major problem of a crippled alien ship about to go boom, very loudly. Which is a pretty unpleasant prospect. It's up to you to save the planet by fighting the alien pirates, finding the computer room and stopping the explosion.
Easy, eh?. First job is to find a litho-acid crystal and restore the computer's power. You're provided with an Exo-trak suit that makes you look like a cyborg tank and, to do some damage, a gun. Throughout the multi-directionally scrolling scenery are plenty of alien creatures to battle, and contact with any of them drains your energy level. Extra weapons can be collected on your explorative travels. On offer are shields, yo-yos (!), plasma rifles and turbo boosts - but be careful because all weapons have limited ammo, so use them wisely.
The next level's objective is to enter the computer room. All the entrances have been blocked, except one. But this can only be reached by swimming through the ship's fuel tanks in a Hydronaut suit (and fighting off packs of aliens, of course).
Can you save the Earth? Well, it lakes a lot of determination to achieve your goal. After several hours play I had barely reached the end of the first level, though it's not so much the alien hordes that give you a hard time but the puzzle element that taxes your grey matter. Your trigger finger is also given a good workout by the persistent creatures that hound you to your grave. Graphics are impressive - fast and colourful - reminding me of Dan Dare 3 (not surprising really as one of the programmers worked on DD 3). The sprites are bold and colourful, and colour clash isn't given a chance to muck up the colours.
Extreme is playable, a bit tricky in places, and certainly worthy of consideration.
MARK ... 85%
'Though resembling Dan Dare 3, there's a better game in Extreme behind the colourful graphics. It incorporates ideas from shoot-'em-up, strategy and puzzle-style games, making an addictive mixture bound for success. At first, the game is very puzzling. You have to explore every nook and cranny and look carefully at the borders to find helpful switches. After playing a white, the tactics of play are soon obvious. You can replenish your energy and torch by standing at the place you teleported in, making the game not such a chore to play _ though you still may have to retrace your steps quite a way (while killing off a load of opponents) to return to the position you died in. Extreme is one mean game - it's addictive and I'll be playing for some time!!'
NICK ... 87%
This is a real 'odd man out'. It's not a massively expensive film licence, its not based on a hit coin-op, it's (gasp) not even available on any other format! (Well, okay, it probably will be soon, but they'll be purely secondary to the Speccy version.) it is, in fact, that great rarity, a totally original product. It's also, beyond being just a game, a rather remarkable demonstration of what the Speccy can do.
Take a quick look at the graphics and it might occur to you that this is ever so slightly reminiscent of another, rather more famous game reviewed in this issue - Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. (And you might be right.) Others of you may spot an even closer resemblance to Dan Dare III or perhaps Tintin On The Moon, Firebird's Savage or (going further back) Trantor - The Last Trooper (or whatever it was called). There's a reason for this of course - Extreme has been put together by Dave Perry and Nick Brunty, the team behind that little lot, who may since have moved onto bigger things (the mega-successful ST Amiga game Supremacy for one) but still love the humble old Speccy, and muck about with it in their spare time. This is their 48K swansong, a game just packed to the brim with everything they'd always wanted to try, and as such has some of the snazziest little effects ever seen on the Speccy.
The game itself is a three level shoot-em-up thing. the basic idea being that an alien ship has crash-landed on Earth, and you've got to help its god-like computer get rid of the nasty alien pirates who've taken over the bulk of the ship. Worse, the ship's defence system has thrown a wobbly and is threatening to self-destruct (which would take half the planet with it). So there's the problem - but how does the game actually work?
Well, the first level is very Dan Dare III-like indeed - splashed with as much colour as is possible on the Speccy against a plain black background (well, not quite plain - there are twinkling stars about the place) to prevent clash. You've got to whizz around, shooting buttons, collecting weapons and opening doors in a quest to restore full power to the computer so it can help you with the rest of your mission. This bit really is full of fancy programming tricks - from using light and dark shades to effectively increase the Speccy's palate up to 16 colours to animating the lava you have to pass through so the whole screen is moving. The screenshots might look impressive, but you have to see the game moving to fully appreciate it.
As for how it actually plays, well, comments from the DDIII and Tintin reviews would be equally appropriate here. It's great for what it is - it's very fast, the explosions are spectacular, and neat touches abound (like the points you've earned for killing each alien leaping into the air) - but you can't help feeling that it would be much more satisfying if there was simply more of it.
The second level is very different, but the same comments apply. Basically, you're now a much larger sprite in an unarmed deep-sea diver suit, splashing around for a spanner or something in the ship's fuel tanks. Inexplicably these are filled with piranha fish and WW2 style mines - all you've got to do is scoot along to the other end of the tank, pick up the spanner, turn round and zoom back. And, um, that's it - the trick is that since you're not armed you have to keep deliberately touching the mines (which act as smart bombs) to get rid of the attacking fish. Very colourful, full of neat touches (like the little whirling propellors on the suit, or the smoothly animated surface to the water) but as a game pretty hopeless. It's basically a shortish journey in a straight line, with only one trick to learn before you can complete it.
Then there's Level Three, and (would you believe?) it's even simpler. It's basically just walking along in a straight line shooting things, finding a computer (or something) and destroying it. As a game it's not really there at all, but luckily it's just as impressive visually as the other sections - perhaps even more so. You control a giant Star Wars-style walker for a start - superbly animated, and quite possibly one of the biggest sprites ever, as tall as the playing area. Even more impressive are some of the things you won't even notice on first playing (like the fact that everything that happens is reflected on the mirrored floor). Visually stunning then, but as I said, almost laughably short and simple as a game.
And there we have it. Technically an incredible achievement, but less satisfying for the gameplayer. This is a real programmer's game, full of tricks and bound to provoke a million 'how did they do that, oh, I see. how clever' comments. Think of it as a fun project, a hobby game packed with effects you really should see, that just happens to have been published. That way you won't be disappointed when you buy it.
There's nothing like a home fire is there? Unless of course you have your very own flamethrower with which to warm the cockles of your heart whilst you burn all your enemies to a similar consistency as a furnace cooked kebab. And Extreme has just that flame thrower.
Here's the lowdown on why you have a showdown. Pioneer 10 as we all remember was sent out in 1972 complete with the porny pictures of a man and woman and a simple star chart showing any (hopefully) benevolent life forms where we live so that they can drop in for tea sometime. Powered by nuclear batteries, Pioneer 10 zapped off, bleeping its way into deep space until its batteries gave out. But now it's started sending messages again, and starts returning to earth within the cargo boy of a friendly life form. Unfortunately, he's so friendly that he left his back door open and a group of intergalactic pirates hove steamed aboard.
Here's where you come burnin' in. The ship carrying the probe, crashes and you're the first on the scene. Can you fight your way through all the Steg pirates, save the friendly life form and turn off the self destruct mechanism that the 'Navigator' started when he was boarded?
This really is a good game, with superb use of colour and a rave of music that plays throughout the three levels, it's got a great heritage in terms of programmers as well as Nick and Dave were also involved in last month's SU classic, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and they're programming ability.
Label: Digital Integration
Price: £10.99 Cass 48K / 1 Load
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
Everybody likes the odd firework now and again. But when the exploding rocket in question is actually an inter-planetary space vessel which has crash-landed and is about to engulf the Earth in a ball of white-hot hydrogen, then it's time to put away the sparklers and the baked potatoes, get out your combat suit with built-in flame thrower, and get the hell on over there to fix things before it goes bang!
It seems this particular ship was bringing the Pioneer 10 space probe back to Earth before it was hijacked by pirates who sabotaged the ship's computer. So the first thing to do is to revive it by conducting an energy crystal from the storage bay to the heart of the machine. Unfortunately the ship's decks are laden with alien beasties who have to be torched to oblivion before they'll let you through the complex of platforms and pillars to the ship's fuel socket.
With that task complete you have to get to the ship's self-destruct computer and stop it from going boom. But the pirates have blocked the way so you have to swim through the fuel tanks which are full of floating mines and fish-like pirates! Use the floating mines to destroy the fish-like pirates, and things should be okay, though.
The final level puts you on top of a mechanical walker, armed with a plasma gun which is just the thing for blowing up more nasty pirates, tanks and, of course, the self-destruct computer at the end of the game.
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