Marsport


by Greg Follis, Roy Carter
Gargoyle Games
1985
Crash Issue 22, November 1985   (1985-10-24)   page(s) 12,13

Gargoyle Games have (temporarily?) abandoned the distant past jumping to the distant future as a setting for their latest game. Marsport, the first in a trilogy of games, begins at a time when the human race is having problems with a race of evil aliens.

The Earth and Moon are defended from the xenophobic alien race known as the Sept by a massive spherical force shield in space. The problem is, the Sept have discovered a way of breaching the field. Deep within the central computers of Marsport, now a Sept stronghold, are the original plans for the construction of the barrier which detail how it can be reinforced. They were hidden there by the barrier's creator, Muller, who is now dead.

You play the character Commander John Marsh, of the Terran underground liberation movement. Your mission is to locate the central computer in the Marsport complex, recover Muller's plans and then escape with them intact. Apart from the dangers presented by the aliens in occupation, you have to cope with the computer generated defence systems. Standing at the entrance to the spacefield, your first task is to locate and then charge a weapon, without which your mission is certainly hopeless.

Sept warriors patrol the corridors of Marsport; they are aliens about half your size who are deadly to the touch. In some passages you may find a Sept of the Warlord caste. They are large insect looking creatures who move only occasionally. If you should approach one, without having the right weapon to hand, a sting will lash out and - curtains.

Although you are warned of approaching Sept, you can never be sure from which direction they will arrive. Your energy gun comes in very handy.... Warden and Herald robots, part of the computer run defence system, patrol the corridors. Herald robots become significant later in the game and are harmless, while Wardens tend to mistake you for a Sept and try to blow you away.

Movement in Marsport is similar to that in Dun Darach, in that the character is moved to the left or right, via control keys, and the view may be altered through ninety degrees. At first this is disorientating, a compass at the bottom of the screen can be used to help you keep your bearings.

Sliding panels can be found set into some corridor walls. They're labelled according to their function and open automatically when approached. Supply units do just that and are constantly replenished. Lockers are a safe storage device for items obtained (you may only carry up to three at a time). Sometimes these lockers are locked and you will have to put a certain object in the Key unit nearby in order to open the covering plate. Refuse units allow you to get rid of objects you no longer want - useful given that you can't drop anything, and remember, you can always throw away unpleasant things. Power units provide power for objects that need it, such as your weapon, and finally Factor units manufacture a new object from other objects placed inside them. Factor units are essential - some of the things you need to complete your mission do not even exist until you create them!

Rooms in the complex are identified by a nameplate above the door. Rooms with 'Danger' above them mean that there is something to be wary of inside, while 'Restricted' rooms cannot be entered until you have located the central computer. Consequently, once the first part of the game has been completed, a lot more of the playing area opens up. Many rooms need a specific key to open them... so a little careful thought is needed.

The main action takes place in the top half of the screen, whilst the bottom half gives compass directions, details of object carried, weapon status and messages. Messages are received when you pass a Vidtex unit or when you are in the process of constructing another object. The bottom half of the screen also gives details of the area you are in.

The playing area in Marsport is estimated at being the size of Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach put together. Not a little game! Unlike Gargoyle's previous two games, Marsport is not played on a flat plain. Instead, it is constructed like a 3D tower block. Each floor has a different function - for instance the Recreational area has a couple of little games that can be played. The levels are connected via a series of lifts that may or may not be one or two way.

Marsport features realistic 3D effects: John Marsh can stroll in front of and behind struts, and a lot of attention has been paid to the animation of his movements.

Unless you have a few weeks to spare, the game will need to be played in several sessions. Thoughtfully, Gargoyle have provided a save game routine which can also be used just before you do something especially tricky in case things don't work out.

Once you do get the plans, the game isn't over - you still have to escape from Marsport. Not a trivial task, but this time, Gargoyle have added quite an interesting feature to the end ...

COMMENTS
Control keys: Walk left/right (ALTERNATE KEYS ON BOTTOM ROW); Enter a door (ENTER); Camera left/right (ALTERNATE KEYS ON SECOND ROW); Pick up/drop (ALTERNATE KEYS ON THIRD ROW); Select object (2,3,7,8,9); Fire (CAPS SHIFT, SPACE); Autorun on/off (4); Freeze/unfreeze (5); Options (6)
Joystick: not applicable
Keyboard play: average
Use of colour: good, no attribute problems
Graphics: excellent
Sound: not applicable
Skill levels: one
Screens: huge scrolling playing area


'I thought Marsport was far better than previous Gargoyle games because there really is so much more to do. The game is about the size of both the others put together and with the fighting, which is one of the highlights of the game, and the atmosphere or being totally alone, the whole thing is very well paced indeed. The background given in the manual is both informative and interesting. I haven't solved Marsport yet but I'm already looking forward to the next two games. The only thing I thought could have been made clearer was the change in perspective, but you can get used to it and once you do, there's a lot of exploring to do.'

'If you're an arcade adventure freak then you will absolutely love Marsport but if you're a fast arcade gamester it may not appeal. Walking around the playing area can get a bit tedious but once you have solved a few problems and got the gun the game really opens up. So if you think it is a bit boring just persevere and you will get hooked. The graphics are some of the best I've seen especially the aliens and John Marsh. Overall it is a good game. Though a bit hard to get into, Marsport soon proves addictive.'

'Marsport could be put down as just another Tir Na Nog, but once you start to get into the game you soon realise how much there is in there. We've come to expect great animated graphics from Gargoyle Games and Marsport is no exception to this. The main character of the game, John Marsh, looks a bit like Cuchulainn in a space suit but once he has got a gun in his hand he much deadlier than Cuchulainn ever was. If you like problem solving then you will love Marsport. This game adds an extra dimension because now you must actually build objects from other less important items in order to open doors or solve puzzles. Marsport can prove frustrating to begin with, but if you get over this initial frustration then you start to enjoy it. Marsport is another excellent game from Gargoyle Games and definitely worth buying, if you're a fan of this particular game format. Even if you're not, it's still fun walking around blasting the aliens.'

Use of Computer: 86%
Graphics: 94%
Playability: 83%
Getting Started: 87%
Addictive Qualities: 95%
Value For Money: 95%
Overall: 95%

Summary: General Rating: Marsport is another excellent contribution to the arcade adventure genre. It's similar to other Gargoyle games, but easily different enough to deserve a place in an arcade adventurer's collection.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 56, September 1988   (1988-08-25)   page(s) 88

Gargoyle Games' Marsport was reputed to be at least twice the size of the company's two previous releases, Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach. Unlike its predecessors, which were played on a flat plain, Marsport is constructed like a 3-D tower block and features one or two neat 3-D effects.

The scenario transports you far into the future. The safety of Earth is threatened by an alien race known as the Septs. Unless Commander John Marsh manages to locate vital defence plans hidden deep within the opposition stronghold, Marsport, the Earth will be overrun by the aliens.

The enemy infested passages yield a series of useful objects which can be disposed of in rubbish shoots (you can't drop anything) or stored in lockers (though first you need to find a key). Restricted areas can only be accessed once you've located the central computer.

Though the 3-D effects which distinguished Marsport in its time are fairly standard now, the gameplay is still just as gripping and absorbing as when it was first released. You may not be stunned by the graphics but the intricacy of the puzzles and the sheer size of the adventure environment means that Marsport still presents a complex and compelling challenge.


Overall: 78%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 21, December 1985   page(s) 53

Ross: So, this is the first in a trilogy, eh? Well, if this one's anything to go by, you can stand by for a real treat. And don't be put off by first impressions - sure, this game looks very similar to Gargoyle's previous offerings, Dun Darach and Tir Na Nog, but the scenario and the problem solving are very different.

The year is 2494 and once again those nasty alien, space invader thingies (these ones are called the Sept) are trying to get their slimy claws on Mother Earth. Your mission is to prevent the impending catastrophe. So, you must penetrate the city computers on Marsport where the aliens are holed out and escape with the plans for a force field to surround earth. No problem, as they say...

Well, I've got news of you - it ain't that simple. Not only do you have to find your way around Marsport but you've got to do it without being blasted away by the baddies. Start off by mapping your progress - this'll help you find the objects you're gonna need if you stand a hope in hell of penetrating further into the base. It's also the only way to prevent that dizzy feeling you get from going round and round in circles, like I did before I got the hang of it!

The graphics are beautifully animated, the controls are excellent and it's great fun to play. And if you're into sci-fi, like me, you'll enjoy it even more. An all-round winner that's well worth lashing out the megabucks on. 9/10


Overall: 9/10

Award: Your Spectrum Ross//s Rave of the Month

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 45, December 1985   page(s) 128

Right, power up your hyperdrive, shoot forward into the 25th Century and set your docking computers for entry to Marsport.

It's 2494 and the Earth has now been besieged for decades by the forces of the Sept - alien beings, they are spacefaring, warlike and merciless. The Earth has been kept safe by means of a power sphere around the orbit of the moon but the Sept have found the original plans for the sphere at Marsport.

Guerrilla fighter John Marsh has been despatched to Mars to locate and retrieve the plans and you must assist him through the ten levels of the dome. Escape is only possible with the plans and there are many ways to die.

The game is controlled and designed in the same movie style of Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach. The space-suited figure of Commander Marsh strides along corridors in much the same way as Cuchullain. Action is smooth and unflickering in a convincing 3D way.

The Warriors are hopping beetle-like creatures who move fast and never ask questions. The Warlords, more noble and less frantic, sit in corridor spaces like arachnid cabbages - only their probosci are scorpion-like and kill on contact.

When you enter the base from the Spacefield your first purpose should be to get some sort of weapon. You are placed on the 'C' level of the base, and must descend to the Daly level where the supplies are kept.

Having explored a bit you'll probably find the Downtube. It's only then that you realise that the lift tubes don't connect one floor to the next as you'd expect... they miss one out. Now you're on Elis level, a residential section where the Sept have their quarters. Watch out.

There are chutes for refuse, lockers where goods can be stored, points for charging weapons and supply units which will provide you with things like guns, gun permits, charcoal, flour and a wide range of consumer goods.

Try to locate Factor Units - those will assemble two or more objects to make a new one. There are also Key stations situated near doors or wall units. They will open the door if you can insert an appropriate object into them.

Gargoyle has yet again produced an enormously sophisticated program. The introduction of an arcade element with the power-gun adds extra zing (or zap) to the proceedings. Top marks to a firm who deliver consistently fine software.

Publisher: Gargoyle
Price: £9.95
Memory: 48K

*****


Overall: 5/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 73, April 1988   page(s) 93

It's 2494, and Cuchulainn's great-great-great-great-great (ENOUGH! -GT) grandson Commander John Marsh is the only hope of saving Mankind from the revolting slimy Sept. Substitute space helmets for swords and aliens for gremlins, and you'll have Marsport. The basic layout, clever animation and detailed background design is very much in the same vein as Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach.

While the Earth and Moon are surrounded by a force field. Mars has fallen to the Sept invaders. You must retrieve the plans for improved field generators from the Marsport Central Computer. Unfortunately, the computer is very keen to defend itself, and can't tell the difference between you and the Sept...

As usual, you have a four-way view, detailed scrolling backgrounds and the opportunity to find and utilise various weapons and tools. You have three main objectives; locate the computer, find the plans and escape. Along the way you'll have to fight the aliens, who are invariably hostile, and robots, some of which are aggressive guardians while others are helpful information gatherers.

Supply units are your main source of useful objects, so look out for them. Lockers can be used to store objects once you have found them. Charge units will replenish your power, while Factory units assemble two or more objects to manufacture a more useful tool.

Finally, key units and vidtex units allow you to access locked areas and to gain useful information!

Label:
Author:
Price: £.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins


Overall: 10/10

Summary: Cuchulainn in space; even better than Tir Na Nog.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 49, November 1985   page(s) 24

MACHINE: Spectrum/Amstrad
SUPPLIER: Gargoyle Games
PRICE: £9.95

It's the year 2494. Earth has been under siege for seventy years by the Sept, a hive-culture from the Galactic centre. Since the siege began, the Sept have been kept at bay by a huge sphere of force which surrounds the Earth and its moon. But the Sept, like all good, evil aliens, have been beavering away and working out a method of breaching the Earth's defences and unless the force field is improved they will succeed!

What Earth scientists need are the original plans for the defence sphere. But unfortunately some careless person left them behind on - you guessed it - Marsport.

Marsport is an extremely clever game. There are loads of puzzles to be solved and a huge area to be explored. You'll need to take a close look at the instructions and the map which come with this nicely packaged game before taking off to Marsport.

The graphics are good - although some of the colours chosen for some of the screens could lead to a few sore eyes!

The Commander can pick up and use objects he finds around the city - mostly in the various supply lockers dotted about on the walls. I loved the way the locker doors slide open as you approach.

Other messages warning you of approaching danger flash up below the main display.

Marsport is quite simply a great game. Get it!


Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 9/10
Playability: 9/10

Award: C+VG Blitz Game

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue December 1985   page(s) 45

Spectrum
Gargoyle
Arcade Adventure

If you ever wanted to know what a ninepin feels like in a skittles alley then Marsport is the game for you. There you are doing the usual Dun Darach Tir Na Nog bit clomping around like Piltdown Man but this time in a space bubble on Mars rather than in some medieval marsh.

Every so often a bowl hurtles by at head height - but just for once in a computer game you don't have to duck, for these are harmless information gathering robots.

Previous Gargoyle games were a bit thin on plot, but Marsport is an intricate and well structured arcade adventure with much more going on. In the first stage of the game you - or rather Commander John Marsh of the underground Earth liberation movement Hasp - have to acquire a power weapon and fight your way through the 10 levels of the city trying to locate the central computer.

A series of hatches in the walls open as you walk by. These can be supply units for which you sometimes need a key which give you objects to use, lockers which you can stow your objects in - because you can only carry three at a time, bins, and charge units to keep your gun loaded.

You need the gun to deal with robots and Septs - the invading life-forms which Gargoyle politely calls a hive culture but which we all know is really just a swarm of intergalactic killer bees. But then I suppose the Septs would call Commander Marsh a terrorist (Geddit?).

The most fearsome adversary in the game is a Sept Warlord - which looks just like a Victorian vacuum cleaner and is almost as dangerous.

The robots that occasionally attack you are malfunctioning warden robots installed by your own forces long ago. If only they belonged to the other side we could call them septic tanks. Once you have reached the computer you can start your search for the original plans for the giant force field which is all that stands between the Septs and Earth and now needs strengthening. Your final challenge is to escape with the plans.


Graphics: 4/5
Playability: 4/5
Sound: 2/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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