So many people have released Ultimate 3D graphics clones that, when I saw Martianoids, the company's first release for more than a year, I thought 'oh no not another one of them!'
Not so, though. The graphics are almost the same as Ultimate's other offerings, but the perspective's sharper and the play is more varied. You control a very unconvincing, cylinderical robot which is armed with gas spray and laser zap guns.
Your massive space ship The Markon Dawn has been invaded by aliens, innovatively called Martianoids, intent on destroying the master computer and, like a swarm of wasps create an environment in which they can live. The only way they can destroy the computer is by eliminating its lines of communication and halting the flow of programs from each sector of the ship to the main processor.
Your robot's main tasks are to collect batteries for energy, protect all sectors, and act as guard for each fluttering program as it floats towards its pyramidal sector processor. Once each program reaches its pyramid the sector's activated and the automatic defences start to destroy the aliens.
It's not an easy job because the aliens rip up the program path rods-which look like revolving barbershop poles- out of their holes and dump them. You can scoop four up at a time, then you've got to find empty holes and slot the poles back into them. Once all the holes- and poles-are working, the program can get home and all is sweetness and light for that sector.
You start in the central sector square, shown on the map at the side of the screen. Robbie the robot is shown as a blip on that display, the program is shown as another blip. Go find the processor pyramid then meet up with the program and nudge it towards its destination.
If a sector square starts to flash red and yellow it's under attack drop everything and rush to its defence. When you've killed a few aliens and replaced a few poles the emergency red stops flashing and you can go back to work on your other sector.
Once you've finished the clean up job on one sector its square turns white and the message window at the bottom of the screen informs you which sector you'd better hit next.
MARTIANS IN DISGUISE
Where have I seen them before? I could be one of the early Dr Whos who's developed an attack of amnesia when he next encounters the Daleks. But I'm not, I am a reviewer who has discovered some old Ultimate aliens in a new game.
First you meet the dome-topped monsters who'll blast you with laser guns when you come within range. Very easy to deal with and you're assured of a high score if you forget about your task and blast, blast, blast at anything that moves.
The mechanical mice appear at the second stage of the game. They move faster than the domes-they're mice after all - and will drain your energy if they touch you.
Third level and enter the blobs, each with two bug eyes on stalks, swaying in the spatial vacuum. They move slower than the mice but bump and bash your energy away just the same. They also fire the occasional hazelnut cluster-shaped laser bombs which won't kill you off immediately but will cripple you.
Your arsenal is composed of two types of weapon. The spray gun looks as if it's filled with acid and its range is limited. The robot puffs a huge cloud into the atmosphere and, hopefully, some of it will reach an alien: if it does the monster crumbles.
This spray is something new for Ultimate, which always used to rely on laser bolts. It's something of a technical innovation because, no matter which angle the robot is pointing at, the spray always shoots out as an extension in perfect perspective.
On occasion you'll need to blast away a section of wall and to do that you'll need the mega gun, activated using the keyboard. It destroys anything in it's path. So, if you want to get a battery trapped inside a wall be careful which part of the wall you destroy, or you'll lose the battery as well. Use the mega blaster sparingly, though, as-unlike the spray-it has a critical effect on your battery.
Martianoids will storm the charts for a number of very good reasons, although technically it's got little to recommend it. First, the plot has several strings to it. Just as you start to get bored with one set of aliens another set joins it and the action zips up. Also, the graphics are cleaner and in better perspective than the other Ultimate titles, a larger variety of curves, flats and textures have been used. Finally, the gameplay just... how can I put it... feels good.
Ultimate is back in the game.
Reviewer: John Gilbert
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