SPOOKY PLACE, SPACE. VERY DARK AND BLACK, WITH NASTY ALIEN THINGIES EVERYWHERE. NOT THE SORT OF PLAT YOU'D LIKE TO GO FOR A HOLIDAY - EVEN IF THERE'S NEVER A QUEUE AT THE POOL! THAT'S WHY WE SENT NICK ROBERTS ON A SPACE CRUSADE...
Board games have been converted to computer since the year dot. Monopoly, Cluedo and the like have put in an appearance and all lived up to their name - people rapidly became bored of them. They simply worked never as computer games.
Gremlin turned around the tradition with the release of a sword and sorcery jaunt, Hero Quest, which created a three dimensional world that was fun to play in and great to look at. Now prepare yourself for the follow-up - Space Crusade!
The player's plopped into the middle of an alien spacecraft as part of a Space Marine battalion. There are nasty mutant thingies out there and they've got to be blown to oblivion before they use the marines as main course!
ARMS AND ARMIES
There are 12 missions to choose from and the ability to load in new ones, when they're made available. Each has a different objective but don't worry, they all include lots of blasting action!
The great thing about Space Crusade is that up to three punters can play at the same time, taking it in turns to make their moves as they would playing the board game.
Marine Chapters (sort of like teams - Prod Ed) to choose from are Blood Angels, Imperial Fists and Ultra Marines. Each player's in command of five warriors and all have to be equipped with weapons before setting foot in the dangerous corridors of the ship. Different missions need different weapons from the armoury, which includes axes, plasma guns, assault cannons, missile launchers and power swords.
When all players have taken their turn, the computer moves the aliens around the ship and takes any necessary action. By this I mean either chewing your heed off or walking straight by!
The nasties are familiar to anyone who's played Gremlin's Hero Quest - they're mutations of the ones found in the game. Skeletons have become androids, goblins are now gretchins, orcs are orcs (really?) and Chaos Knights have transformed into Chaos Space Marines.
These may seem an ufriendly bunch of fellows (they wouldn't buy you a pint down the Star & Moonbeam) but they're pansies compared to the big cheese of Space Crusade. Looking like a close cousin of ED-209 from Robocop is the Dreadnought. If a player so much as sneezes in his general direction, he lets loose with the massive firepower at his disposal and it's goodbye cruel world (or should that be galaxy?).
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM!
Handy icons include the scanner which allows the player to take a peek into nearby rooms to discover what lurks inside. This can save the skins of the marines by avoiding contact with anything green and slimy (snotty aliens, surreal! -Ed)!
If you've played the board game you'll know all about the special cards collected throughout the game. They're called Order Cards and allow a Commander to gain access to the computer of the mother ship and blast away.
The great joy of Space Crusade is it can either be played purely as a strategy game or the player can flip to and from the 3D view of the spacecraft and have a good look at the alias' ugly mugs close-up.
Onscreen you get the main view area with selectable icons below it. Then there's a general overview of the whole ship with aliens and marines marked on it and a box showing any commendations or weapons the current player's acquired.
To find out what's going on in another section of the ship, the player simply clicks the pointer on another part at the map.
MORE PACKED THAN A TOFFEE CRISP!
There's so much programme Paul Hiley and graphic artist Ade Carless have packed into the game it's no wonder they had to make it 128K only. All the missions, both views and the hundreds of rules and regulations from the original game have been crammed into one load! Graphics are excellently drawn and detailed in both the strategy and 3D views. Each sprite has several frames of animation, and the only difference between the Spectrum and 16-bit versions is the lack of colour.
There's no way anyone who buys Space Crusade is going to become bored and complete it within a few hours. Days or months, even years are more like it! With new missions being devised as we speak, Space Crusade is a purchase that will keep you occupied for the rest of your life (probably)!
NICK ... 90%
'After spending several millenia slotting the small plastic pieces of the board game together (and kicking Hubert, my pet kipper, around the room), I thought 'Sod it' and played the computer version. The character sprites are small but wonderfully animated, especially the ED-209 style Dreadnought robot. The amount of stuff packed in is quite incredible for the Spectrum - it must take months to learn all the different options. Nail-biting tension builds up as the marines yomp through the derelict ship. Trouble is, they often get their heads ripped off a few seconds later (sounds familiar!). Whether or not you're a fan of roleplaying games, Space Crusade's a most awesome game (dude).'
LUCY ... 92%
Have you ever had to get out of bed in the middle of the night for a drink of water? It's a terrifying experience. I used to live next to a graveyard, which made the whole procedure even more horrific. First you have to get out of bed really quietly so that you don't disturb all those monsters that are hiding under the bed; then you have to run silently downstairs, and close your eyes as you pass the window that looks out onto the graveyard. Once in the hallway, switch all the lights on, thus waking everybody up. You are now safe from any aliens that might be lurking in the larder or hiding underneath the coats. Gremlin's Space Crusade is a bit like that, except you're not allowed to turn any lights on. Eek!
Space Crusade is the Grem's follow-up to their number one smash, Hero Quest. Like that, this a conversion from an original Games Workshop boardgame but it comes from a far more elaborate game and its a much closer conversion. Like Hero Quest, the idea of Space Crusade is to complete a number of missions. Before we have a look at those though, lets just have a peek at the plot.
I NEED MY OWN SPACE!
It's the year 2525 million and space travel is easier, and quicker, than taking the tube from Picadilly Circus to Liverpool Street. Y'see, a few years back we discovered an entire universe running parallel to our own. It's called Warp space and was home to all the lords, ladies and gentlemen of Chaos. Eek. Unfortunately, 'cos of mankind's meddlesomeness, these chaotic peeps have escaped from the Warp and decided that they quite fancy a few of our planets. Double eek!
This can only mean one thing - it's time for a jolly big war. The Hundred Years war, which actually lasted for 116 years, fades into insignificance next to the War of Strife. During this happy time whole solar systems perished and the aliens gorged themselves on the bodies of entire planets for 5000 years. It looked like the end of the line for Mr Human when who should rise up from the masses but the Emperor of Human Space. (Human space? You mean bedrooms and pubs and things? Ed) No, I mean stars and suns and living rooms. He was a bit of an ace chap really. With only a brillo pad, yesterday's copy of The Guardian and a quarter of Kola Kubes he unified his empire and made all those creepy aliens quake in their shoes. And all cos of Kola Kubes, marvellous. (Aren't you forgetting those men in big white suits of armour. Ed) Oh, yeah, Mr Emperor also created the Space Marines who were the greatest warriors ever and set about sending all those aliens back to Chaos.
MARINES? IS THAT WHERE WE COME IN?
Yep! A very important ship has been invaded by aliens whilst hurtling through Warp space. On board are three chapters of marines; there's the Blood Angels, the Ultramarines and the Imperial Fists. Each chapter consists of a commander and four plain ol' marines. You can take charge of one, two or three chapters, but you'll only get really confused. Anyway. it's much more fun playing with a couple of friends. The idea is to equip your chapter, choose a mission and set off into the very depths of the ship to zap aliens, run out of ammo and get back to the docking claw alive. Here's an example - 'A marine squad have been wiped out whilst testing a secret experimental weapon. Locate the experimental weapon and return it to the docking claw.' Along the way you can either act heroic and kill all the aliens you come into contact with or you can try and avoid them. You can also waste time by fighting the other chapters of marines. This can be fun, if completely unrewarding.
It all sounds so simple, doesn't it? Well, surprise, surprise, it isn't. It is, in fact, incredibly difficult cos those pesky aliens are just so darn clever. If you're not careful you'll find yourself completely surrounded and unable to run back to the docking claw. More often than not you'll fail your missions and a rather nasty message telling you how completely incompetent you are appears on screen. If you succeed then you'll get congratulated and your commander will be promoted through the ranks from Sergeant to, finally, Captain Senior. Promotion also gives you the chance to collect honour badges which mean that you can choose more equipment at the beginning.
If you just take a look at one of the marvy screenshots you'll see that the screen's divided into three major bits. The large map on the left scrolls around in either 2 or 3D, the 2D screen shows all your marines and the aliens and looks like all those tiled games, like Krall and Klimax, that have been on the cover cassette recently. The 3D option is a bit slower but it looks dead excellent. The smaller map, which doubles up to show your dice rolls, shows the entire area and is also dead useful for spotting blips.
Or aliens before they actually become aliens, if you see what I mean. When you use your scanner to find out just where those unearthly dudes are hanging out, some of them will appear as said blips on the map screen. They'll also come up on the main screen as blue podules when you scroll around and as soon as one of your marines spots one of these, it'll turn blue. Get even closer and you'll be able to tell exactly what sort of alien it is, and kill it. Hurrah! When you bash an alien the screen transforms itself into 3D and you can see your close-cropped chappie turn Mr Monster into a puff of smoke in massive detail. It's ace. There's a whole bundle of aliens to get rid of from orks to soul- suckers, and chaos marines to gretchins. They've got just one thing in common - they're all completely nasty and the sooner you get rid of them the better. Bleurgh!
Killing aliens is definitely fun, being killed by aliens isn't. Sometimes you can get out of being zapped by rolling your defence die. If it works then the alien dies, it it doesn't then you're a gonna. Basically. Random events can also help you out, these occur before each alien turn and can actually be quite handy. For example, there's Master Control which gives you control over all the doors, so you can squash aliens in them. Wahey! Sometimes you get given a secondary mission which is a way of picking up some extra points. So, even it you don't complete the primary mission, you can still pick up some points.
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW?
What, apart from the fact that it's completely stonking? No, not really. Space Crusade is actually tonnes better than the boardgame 'cos you don't have to have played it for a month to understand all the rules. All those things that take up so much time whilst playing the boardgame, like the rolling of the die and sorting out the random cards, have all been incorporated into the computer. It's so much easier! Mind you, there's still plenty for you to learn. Much of Space Crusade does depend on luck and the die, but a hell of a lot of it is down to skill. It'll be ages before you manage to finish all the missions, that's for sure.
What else? Well, the graphics are dead clear and the gameplay's dead fast considering the mass of facts and figures that have been crammed into the Speccy. In fact the whole thing is so well done that you wonder why, if they can make Speccy games like this, people like Gremlin aren't going to be producing many more games for our lil' 'ol' Spec. I think you lot should go out in your droves to buy this one and prove to Gremlin that Speccy games are worth their while. Go buy, Spec-chums!
Price: Tape £10.99 Disk £15.99
Anyone who's a fan of the Space Crusade board game will instantly love this. It's an RPG along the lines of Laser Squad where you lead a team of space commandoes against a mysterious foe.
Big Al's fave game and one of the best action RPGs in ages and thoroughly unmissable.
Message received from other ship; "Dreadnought located on space-hulk, seek out and destroy". Suddenly a massive combat robot stomps into your squad's sector of the ship. A Dreadnought. You take careful aim with the Plasma Gun and... whoosh, a big flag with 'BANG' written on it appears from the muzzle, oh no that darn prankster Jones has been up to his tricks again!
Not the grooviest situation to be in and no mistake. However with careful planning and fearless elimination of the wrong people this should never happen in Space Crusade the computer game. I hope.
Space Crusade involves leading a team of five Space Marines through twelve demanding missions, seeking out and destroying the enemies of mankind (and womankind, sexist pig - Yvette). and all followers of chaos and other alien evil doers. (Surely this means that the producers of that spaced out TV program "The Word" will finally be hunted down and disposed of).
You get to play the Marine Commander, and a big hurrah for that because it means that you've become a member of an elite group of the most skillful and devastating warriors the galaxy has ever known. In plain game terms being a Marine Commander means having a lot of fun and never having to say you're sorry as you'll have more life-points and potentially more armour protection than any other character in the game. Fortunate really as the Commander must return to base if the mission is to succeed, even if all the marines under his command are Terminated.
Mission objectives vary but all include one primary goal (disable defence shield, diversionary actions etc.) and various secondary ones which pop up like unexpected pimples when you're getting ready for a party. Yes, just when you think everything is going O.K. additional orders can arrive from the mother ship or extra nasty objects suddenly pop up on the way to the main objective. And believe me you'll need more than a tube of Oxy 10 to clear some of these messes up.
The computer can control up to forty aliens on any one mission so be careful out there mahn! These alien chappies are all quite intelligent and you could find yourself in a one versus ten situation very quickly unless you've got plenty of support. During the game you can search for aliens with each marine's scanner. There's even an equipment card which allows you to identify aliens anywhere on the playing screen. Likewise the aliens can track and follow you.
Space Crusade allows up to three players to participate (or you can cheat and play with three marine teams) which brings the total amount of Space Marines available to fifteen which, if you're good at team work should see you through the game. However teamwork isn't always possible as some missions cleverly pit Marine Chapters against each other. Thus you end up fighting against your friends as well as the computer which means that you have to be meaner and sneakier than a rattlesnake with super-glue on it's tail to finally win through.
Gameplay is easy as pie (and almost as yummy) since the computer manages all the complicated rule structures which normally slow down the board game letting you get on with the mission. Each player can move all five marines, in any order, once per go and engage each one in combat (hand to hand or with a weapon) once in a single turn. You can take as much time as you want to decide what to do and when you're finished simply press a 'forward' icon to activate the next player's squad or the computer's alien turn.
The computer will take about thirty seconds to complete it's play then the current round is complete. Each mission allows thirty rounds to complete all objectives and return to base. This limit means that an awful lot of thought has to be put into formulating game strategies, and remember, the computer is just as likely to put banana skins under your feet as a human opponent is (the dirty dastard)..
When a mission has been completed your score is calculated by measuring how successful you've been in completing ALL your objectives, how many enemies you've bumped off, how many rounds you've managed to complete the game in and how many of your own men have been been killed in the process. Failure or low scores result in nasty screaming messages from the Emperor and your Commanders, telling you that you are a disgrace and a downright idiot. High scores will result in 'honour', 'exhaltation' and, more importantly, extra 'order' and equipment cards which will enable you to complete later, more difficult missions.
Graphics look very good and there is an option on 2D or 3D play. 2D is all colour and action is quite fast, whilst the monochrome 3D is a little slower but has better sound which adds to a more realistic atmosphere which includes footsteps, lasers and explosions.
Space Crusade will take a long time to both to learn and to master but I'll bet that most people will enjoy every minute of it. Just remember, learning this sort of game is like completing your potty training. a bit hit and miss, but a lot of satisfaction once you actually get stuck right into it.
Price: £10.99 Tape, £15.99 Disk
Reviewer: Big Al Dykes
GARTH: Wow! I've played the board version of Space Crusade before now and Gremlin have taken all the pain from the game with this excellent conversion. No Crusade fans should be without it and anyone who like strategy board games should try it. It's even a reasonable blast too but you've GOT to use your brain if you want to stick around for any time.
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