Firefly is an abstract shoot-'em-up - there's no saving-the-world scenario, just a colourful, nail-biting challenge.
It starts on a grid five squares by nine. Down the left-hand side is a row of white squares, and that's where you start in your firefly craft. The aim is to reach a green switch on the opposite side of the grid by moving one square at a time.
Planets and blue triangular symbols are scattered across the board, as well as blank squares. You can land quite safely on a blank square, but landing on a blue square - sometimes essential - presents you with two icons: a thumbs-up and a thumbs-down.
Landing on the thumbs-up allows you a clear path across that particular square, but if you land on the thumbs-down the grid is rearranged and the firefly craft damaged.
So with luck you can move the craft onto the nearest blank space. What then? Well, the craft is shown inside a maze dotted with generators, and the aim of this subgame is to destroy them.
You can enter each generator after collecting four bubble-like structures - and once you're inside the generator, another set of thumbs-up/thumbs-down icons appears. To destroy the generator, hit the thumbs-up - if you hit the thumbs-down by mistake, you lose the bubble structures and again sustain a hefty amount of damage.
And the mazes are inhabited by myriad aliens, ruthlessly efficient at destroying intruders. But some fish-shaped aliens, helpful little chaps, shed water droplets when shot. Collecting these replenishes lost energy and repairs the scratches and dents on the firefly craft.
A handy map at the bottom of the screen shows where all the generators are; some are isolated and can only be reached by teleporter. There's another challenge: on entering the teleporter, you're confronted by your own ship surrounded by a circle of alternating red and blue squares. To activate the teleporter, just shoot three blue squares in a row - but with each one shot the action speeds up, so a sharp eye is essential!
When all the generators have been destroyed in that particular sector, the display reverts to the opening grid screen, and the square you've just cleared is now coloured white. And you carry on zipping through these tests of skill and concentration till the green switch is reached.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: large and varied monochrome areas, with detailed and smoothly-animated backgrounds and characters
Sound: great title tune on both 48K and 128K versions, plus vitally important sound effects
'Mix together a shoot-'em-up, a collect-'em-up and a maze game, add sundry reaction tests to taste and you've got a tasty game indeed. Firefly lacks nothing in graphics and gameplay. Most of the graphics are monochrome, but the player's ship is very nicely drawn and coloured, right down to the satisfying burst of flame which the thrusters emit. The varied action is very stimulating, even though success in the rather silly reaction games is so vital to progress. The difficulty level of these subgames turns out to be fiendishly pitched; they start off quite easy but soon become 'close your eyes and hope' situations, which might put off the impatient. But Firefly's addictive challenge would soon entice them back.'
PAUL ... 92%
'Firefly is one of the best games I've played for a long time, though it doesn't sound like much till you've tried it - the graphics are the usual high-quality shoot-'em-up stuff and the gameplay, though original, loses something in verbal description. But there's addictiveness in oil-tankerfuls; I played Firefly solidly for four hours without wanting a break! Colour is used nicely, and the sprites are very well-designed; the only complaint I have is that the abort key (BREAK) is too close to the P key on the +2 and +3, which many people use to move right. But forget the nit-picking; all shoot-'em-uppers should have Firefly.'
MIKE ... 94%
'Maybe Firefly's gameplay isn't entirely original - but with this sort of quality who cares? The scrolling is faultless, the game immensely playable an the graphics are very, very good, reminiscent of the old Ultimate style. And Firefly's addictiveness is deceptive: once you start playing, it drags you in and that's it, you're hooked! The visual patterns can start to get hypnotic if you're not careful... If I were really pushed to find fault, I'd say the teleporter sequence is just a shade too fast - but that's a minor quibble. Firefly virtually overflows with quality, style and sheer excellence.'
ROBIN ... 91%
It takes one hell of a game to keep me battling away through lunchtime. So, if I tell you I'm starving hungry you'll get a fair idea of how good Special FX's new game Firefly is.
Firefly's basically a fast action shoot 'em up, but with a few unique additions which make the gameplay both original and exciting. You pilot the interstellar starship Firefly, on its return journey to Earth. After exploring space for several decades you've no idea of the destruction and desolation on Earth and the mechanical empire that has colonised the solar system. But it sure won't take you long to realise! So, it's up to you to destroy the Mechanoid framework, by wiping out the energy source used to keep it functioning. But, (surprise, surprise), it's not going lo be easy.
When you begin the game you're show the Mechanoid framework, which is composed of a grid representing the solar system. Your aim is to travel across the grid to the Power Source by taking control of a number of squares, each of which represent certain zones. There are three types of these zones. The first kind are already occupied by planets: so they are well protected and you cannot enter them, which means you have to plan your path carefully. The second kind are un-constructed regions, and here you can take a gamble and try to manually override the intrusion system. But most of the zones are 'Robotic Occupied Areas' and it's through these that you enter the system in the Firefly and try and win over the sector.
Once you've selected a Robotic zone, a view of the area will be shown on screen. Some zones are fairly clear of obstructions, while others are quite maze-like. Underneath the main window is a scanner which displays the zone's four main energy points that you must destroy. These are shown as fast flashing dots. Slow flashing dots depict teleporters, and you may need these to reach all four energy sources. To destroy the energy sources you must collect four excess energy units, and then enter the source to complete a test of reactions. Once all four are destroyed you have captured the zone and may then move further across the Mechanoid grid. Got all that? it sounds complicated but you soon pick it up, though actually managing to destroy a zone is a lot more tricky. There are numerous nasties around every corner waiting to go in for the kill. And if your ship experiences too much damage I'm afraid its thankyou and goodnight!
The graphics in Firefly are nothing short of amazing and what's more it's fast and extremely smooth. A lot of thought has gone into the gameplay which means it's an appetising mixture of blasting, strategy and skill.
I loved it. And I s'pect you will too.
It's funny isn't it, how the most cheesy storylione can be constructed around such a fantastic game? Take Firefly, for example. It's probably got the most enduring gameplay to be found in any game around this month, and the graphics are just great, but the storyline would be enough to make you pass out through sheer disinterest and sense of deja vu. The world is under threat from alien blobs and it's up to you to quash the empire-build intentions of the little critters.
Heard it all before? To bloody right, but hang on, you almost certainly haven't played anything with quite as many different elements.
Special FX, which is Ocean's hot new coding team, has gone to incredible lengths to include - almost entirely successfully - strategic, arcade and luck-of-the-draw elements among others.
The game is easy to play but complicated to explain. Here goes: pay attention. The aliens are building up a huge network of girders and platforms throughout the whole solar system. The more they manage to build, the closer they are to victory.
By guiding your Firefly icon (yours is the good ship Firefly) over a grid of squares, you can select which sector of the solar system to attack first. You can only attack the sector adjacent to a 'dead area - ie, one that you've cleared already. To start off, you have a row of dead areas down the left hand side of the grid.
Once you zap yourself down to the sector, the readout in the bottom of the screen will pop up a schematic representation of the whole sector, with the maze layout - for each sector is essentially a maze - and various important things marked. There are three important things on this map. Teleports, Energy Points and You. Large boulders are indicated too, but as far as I could tell, they're of absolutely no consequence whatsoever.
Teleports beam you about the sector. Once you enter one (you fly over it and wait hopefully) ) the screen changes to show your ship and a circle of alternate red and blue squares. Your ship spins around in the centre, and the square at which the nose of the craft is pointing is highlighted. The aim here is to come (phnar phnar - Freddy Sick, Acting review-reader) ) with a combination of blue squares which will teleport you to the right place. You have to get three squares and each time your spaceship rotates faster than the last. If you hit red too many times, you'll exit the teleport and explode into a million bits.
It's vital that you get the hang of the teleport, as most of the mazes have at least one Energy Point that you can't get to by simple flying. Energy Points? Yes, they're the rapidly-flashing dots on your scanner. All the time, they spew out energy blobs. Once four have been collected, you can enter the Point in the same way as a teleport, and prime a charge to knock it out, thus depleting the aliens' security system and, eventually, after taking out all the Points in a sector, rendering it "dead".
OK, so it's strategy city, isn't it? Well, not really. You see, all the time you're flying around in the sectors, which is at least 80 percent of the gameplay, you have to fight off the bad guys. There are stacks of different types. Some fire at you, some just fling themselves against your ship. All drain your energy if you're not careful (your energy is represented by a bar at the bottom of the screen).
I if you remember the kind of thrill you got from games like Jetpac, waiting to see what the next sheet of aliens looked like, you'll be able to understand a part of the appeal of Firefly. Th aliens, and especially the backgrounds, are so varied and exciting, you get the impression that you'll never run out of things to discover. The mazes vary from deserted unconstructed foundations, to high-tech constructions, each providing a new angle, forcing you to fly in a slightly different way.
The firefights you get into with the aliens are great, and as you're totally free to move around in the 8-way scrolling landscape, you've got some genuine dogfight elements thrown in too.
The graphics are good an varied, and the gameplay feels somehow superior to most games in the same field. If Special FX can top this, it'll shortly be able to rank itself up with names like Ultimate. Impressive.
Author: Special FX
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.95, Diskette: £14.95
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £8.95, Diskette: £12.95
WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR
Special FX was founded last year by former Ocean director Paul Finnegan together with Jonathon Smith, a long-time Ocean programmer. After a short spell with Liverpool-based Software Projects, for whom they wrote Hysteria, they've returned along the Manchester Ship Canal to old haunts at Ocean under their own label. Firefly is the first of a proposed six releases for this year.
For the crew of the Firefly there is no home - just Firefly itself. Their mission, under the player's control, is to destroy an army of mechanoids which has colonised a solar system. The system is displayed as a 9x5 grid of 45 segments. The objective is to get from the far left-hand side, where Firefly starts, to a switch situated on the far right-hand side.
Before the game starts some segments are already filled, while those which are just empty black spaces are parts of the solar system still under mechanoid control. There are always eight planet segments which cannot be occupied by the player and eight gamble segments. The latter consist of a vertical line of two thumbs-up signs and three thumbs-down along which the Firefly moves; pressing fire on a thumbs-up clears the segment allowing Firefly to progress, but a thumbs-down returns the player to the beginning to start the game again.
Segments with a circle (white on the Spectrum) are safe, allowing Firefly to cross them without gambling or entering into battle, which happens when an empty square is activated. Battles take place in a multi-directional scrolling sector of space which forms a maze inhabited by mechanoids. A sector is cleared by destroying the mechanoid generators, which show up on the scanner (middle bottom) as flashing dots.
Having located a generator Firefly must collect four amoeba-like forms called Yokes; the generator can then be entered and deactivated. Deactivation is achieved in a similar way to gambling; a thumbs-up and thumbs-down appear on screen flashing alternately - hitting fire when the thumbs-up is lit destroys the generator. Landing a thumbs-down means another four Yokas have to be collected before reentering the generator for another try.
Continual bombardment from the mechanoid hordes drains the damage indicator, which, oddly, starts at full and empties out with each hit, losing Firefly one of three lives when zero is reached. A life is also lost if the fuel runs out. However, running into an occasional space fish causes raindrops to fall, and for every drop collected damage is restored and fuel supply increased.
Some areas of the maze are sealed but may be reached through teleports. When a teleport area is accessed the screen displays a circle of red and blue (green on the Commodore) Squares. To teleport successfully three blues are needed and are obtained by pressing fire as the cursor, which increases in speed gradually, makes its way around the circle.
Having destroyed all the generators the screen reverts to the grid map of the solar system where Firefly can activate another segment. This continues until the switch is reached or all three lives are lost.
Fireflyis an impressive new label launch, and a highly addictive one due to the relentless compulsion to reach the switch. It is not unreasonably difficult once the gambling and battle sequences are mastered, but success largely depends on how well the grid is laid out at the beginning - it changes every time Firefly played - sometimes an easy route is provided, at other times it can prove downright impossible. But the random layout of the solar system gives Firefly a lot of variety so that it remains an incredibly playable and enjoyable game.
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