THE CLONING GAME
The world is under siege from aliens, they linger everywhere, constantly attacking humans from their bases in Spectrums, arcade machines and even PC Engines. But programmer Bob Morlock has decided to stop them. He's programmed Captain Blood, a hero based on himself, together with a starship.
But when Morlock runs this program he is transformed into Blood, and soon under attack from Space Invaders. A quick hyperspace seems in order, but the drive unit malfunctions, creating thirty Blood clones, all with a portion of his vital fluids! So before taking on the aliens, Blood must first find all his clones. When the game starts 25 have been found and absorbed.
When you takeover Morlock's quest the first thing you notice is the excellent presentation, clearly inspired by the movie Alien. Operating this biomechanic display is done by using Blood's hand to click on icons. Options include looking at the planet's surface (to detect missiles), blowing the planet up, hyperdriving to another planet, saving the game or launching an Oorxx biomissile. In the latter case the player is given joystick control of the missile as it zooms across a wireframe landscape towards a canyon. This is the only arcade section in the game and is impressive.
At the end of the canyon, an animated picture of the alien appears together with a scrolling strip of icons. When the alien talks icons appear which, by pointing at them, are translated into words. You can reply by selecting icons at the base of the screen. There is always an alien on the first planet, but with tens of thousands of planets and only a handful of aliens, it's vital you convince the first alien to give you the coordinates of other aliens. The basic idea is that you warp around the galaxy, talking aliens into giving you the locations of the clones. Some demanding game which deserves serious consideration.
PHIL … 74%
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: well-drawn status panel and smooth wire-frame planet landscapes
Sound: fair 128K rendition of Jean-Michel Jane's title tune, varied ingame effects
'The first time I played this was on the Atari ST and to tell you the truth this version was not all that different. Some of the edge has been taken off the graphics, but the game's 'feel' has been perfectly translated and playability remains the same. The icon communication system is a bit strange though, with loads of icons, one even representing bananas! This is very off-putting at first but once you have learned the basic icons you can begin to speed the system up. Captain Blood will without doubt take some time to get into but if you can persevere it should be rewarding.'
NICK … 76%
'Captain Blood is one of those games you either love or hate. Personally I like it. If you play it in the dark you can really get into the unique atmosphere of the game. The version we played was the +3 disk game, and while apart from the music intro it was just one load, I don't know how it'll be crammed into 48K machines.'
MARK … 79%
Eek, it's the spooky Captain Blood, brave explorer of the galaxy, setting out on a mission which would make even T'zer cry. There's a huge galaxy ahead of you (you're Cp'n Blood you see) and your task is to destroy five 'Numbers', (clones of yourself) from which you'll suck enough body fluid to continue your life without dying. Yuk!
You begin the game near to an inhabited planet, which is lucky. Cos most of the planets in the game are merely a set of co-ordinates with randomly generated terrain and no life forms at all. Anyway, having found this planet you're now faced with three options. You can either send an OORX to photograph the planet surface, (this will show you if the planet has any defence systems), destroy the planet (kaboom!). or send an OORX baby to the planet surface to seek out any lifeforms.
seeing as it's in your own interest to find a 'number', it's best not to destroy the planet, but to send your OORX in to check it out. Besides, if you don't you'll miss out on one of the best bits of the game, the 'Flying Over The Planet's Terrain' sequence.
This is one of the most impressive sequences in the game, and screenshots cannot do justice to the visual impact of the terrain moving towards you, rising and falling as you swoop and soar over the surface in search of either a defence system or life form.
Once your OORX is under way, if the planet has a defence system, lines will emerge from both sides of the screen, which means that you have been detected. When these lines meet in the middle, your OORX will be destroyed. So if you're detected, flying low and slow will give protection, but it does take time to get anywhere, and I found the best policy was to zoom along until the detection lines got close to each other, and then to dive low and stop for a moment or two while they 'lose' you.
On reaching the end of a valley, you will be presented with a 'photograph' of the surface. If the planet is uninhabited, this is all you'll get, and it's time to find another. But if, joy of joys, you have stumbled on an inhabited planet, the occupant appears in a box on screen, and you can now engage it in 'conversation'.
You do this by using a Planetary Phrase Book which contains such useful phrases as 'Where is the Post Office?' No, actually you use a set of around 120 icons each representing one word, which are translated from Iconese into English when you point to them. But it proves to be an unrewarding and cumbersome exercise for several reasons.
Firstly, only about a quarter of the icons can be seen on screen at one time, and with so many to grasp, it's kind of impossible to remember what words you can use to communicate with, and after several hours play, I still couldn't get to grips with it. The aim of conversation is, I suppose, to get lots of useful information which will point you to the right planets to begin your search for the 'numbers. But as communication proved difficult, the playability of the game was dramatically reduced.
This is a very difficult game to accurately review. In a sense, it's an adventure disguised as a pseudo-Elite strategy style game, and consequently seems to defy pigeon-holing. The graphics (and sound on the biggie versions) are excellent, and the presentation of the game is straightforward and easy to use. Though if you've got to spend several hours communicating to get anywhere, you only get to appreciate the quality of programming intermittently!
Once the icon communication system is grasped, then I expect that real progress could be made in the game, and zapping round the galaxy in search of the clones could have the campaigning appeal of, say, trying to reach Elite status, or solving a massive adventure.
I doubt, however, that there are many gamesters', zappers, strategists or adventurers who are willing to put the long preliminary hours in, simply to get properly involved. This is reflected in my mark, but those who chose to persevere might find an intelligent strategy game lurking here.
Maybe it's too much garlic. Maybe it's that awful wine they drink (by the way, I have it on good authority that the French DETEST Piat d'Or). But whatever the explanation, the French write really strange games. Captain Blood should win the Prix Internationale de Strangeness, it's so strange.
Let's look at the plot. The game appears to take place in the imagination of Bob Morlok, a junk sci-fi author whose alter ego, Captain Blood, is the greatest coin-op player in the world. Morlok himself taking part in a computer game where Blood is split into umpteen clone copies. As a result, his original body is disintegrating fast; to restore it, he has to search out his clones and steal their vital fluids. Blood's spaceship is a biomechanical organism complete with a machine intelligence and a number of Oorxx space fish. These Oorxx can be used as scout ships, missiles and probably dishwashers. The mechanism of the game is a bit like those ancient Star Trek strategy games; you navigate around the galaxy landing on different planets searching for clues to the whereabouts of your clones. The main screen display shows Blood's claw-like hand, which you move around the screen stabbing at the appropriate control buttons. To start off you select the planet view screen and go for a landing. This sequence involves you navigating through a cleverly-depicted vector graphic mountain scene until you reach the end. It's not very challenging though, especially if you choose not to fly at full speed, so after several landings the whole thing gets a bit dull. Having landed, you should be presented with a graphic of a grotesque alien. Your job is to communicate with him in order to obtain clues. The communication system is ingenious but long-winded. A menu of icons appears at the bottom of your control panel. Each represents a single word, and is translated at the side of the screen. You must string symbols together, check them with the translator then transmit them to the alien in the hope that he'll come up with a useful clue, like SWEAR SWEAR TAKE ME TO PLANET ASCODA THEN I TELL NUMBERS SWEAR HUMAN.
If you try navigating around the galaxy without any clues, you'll inevitably end up on uninhabited and useless planets. Your one consolation is that you can blow them to bits, though this doesn't add much to the game.
There are some brilliant ideas in Captain Blood, let down by a terrible novella-style manual which doesn't properly explain what on earth you're supposed to be doing, and a repetitive gameplay which obviously doesn't have all the graphic sophistication of the original Amiga and ST versions.
Although the Jean-Michel Jarre music on the 128K version is suitably boppy, I don't think 48K players will get much out of the game, especially since it's been slightly cut down to fit in the machine.
Author: Ulrich & Bouchon
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Exxos, £9.95cs, £14.95dk
ST version reviewed Issue 7 - ACE rating 887
It's been a long while coming, but the Spectrum interpretation of Infogrames' (now Exxos') Captain Blood has finally landed. Apart from the inevitable cosmetic differences, the game remains the same: thankfully, the arcade planet landing sequence is well represented and the adventure aspect remains intact. In fact, the only real drawback of this (and other) 8-bit incarnations, is the lack of mouse control for which the game was primarily designed.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
The Alienesque H.R.Giger-inspired organic spacecraft console doesn't lose too much to the translation to monochrome and, although grainy, the 3-D canyon sequences are effective. Hyperspace and planet-destruction graphics sequences are disappointingly crude, but Jarre's Zoolook music is enjoyable enough and so's the overall gameplay. Unfortunately, Captain Blood is showing its age now.
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