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The Colony logo

Mindscape, Amiga £29.99

The Colony P atrolling around in your DAS Armoured Cruiser, your attempts to catch forty winks are interrupted by the radio crackling to life. You answer it, ‘cause that’s the kind o’ Space Marshal you are, and receive an earful of static interspersed with an order from HQ to check out the Settler Plot on Delta 5-5. The last message from this settlement – received some hours ago – was broadcast by their commander who, before being cut off, ranted on about being overrun. The ensuing silence from the Plot calls for investigation, and as you’re in the vicinity…
Landing and taking off in a DAS Armoured Cruiser is usually a doddle, basically the onboard computers do all the work. Unfortunately, on the approach of Delta 5-5 your craft enters something akin to a black hole phenomenon. As your vehicle gets a malfunction and you prepare to die, the black hole vanishes, leaving you about two seconds in which to regain control of your cruiser before it touches (wrong word) down on Delta 5-5: it’s not enough time!
Slowly regaining consciousness, you bless the guy who insisted on incorporating emergency landing retros in the design of the DAS Cruiser. You landed relatively safely, although the ship’s reactor has powered down and now has only enough juice to maintain life support. If you ever want to get off this planet the reactor will need recharging – as if checking out the Settlement Plot wasn’t enough to cope with.

Your first impression of The Colony is one of darkness. The cockpit where you begin is a mass of dull grey relieved only by black shapes. Walking into one of these shapes reveals it to be a command console and pressing the left-hand button helps put some light on your situation – pressing the right-hand button results in your lights being put out… permanently.
Exploring your cruiser, you come across computer terminals, desks, books and notices, all of which provide more information about you, your surroundings and your mission. The most important find on the ship is an F-21 Armoured Spacesuit dispenser and installer. This is the vital piece of equipment which allows you to step outside.
Choosing the power of its armour and weapons (light, medium or heavy) is critical, as the heavier your choice the more power is required to run the suit. If you don’t have sufficient power in the suit (displayed top left of its Head-Up-Display) it takes its energy from the wearer, a good way to end the game quickly. Once suited up it’s time to go walkies.

The planet is graphically very disappointing, being made up of a grey surface, on which are dotted small pyramids, a very distant blue mountain range and an equally blue sky. Oh yeah, and lots of alien ships to help you die more easily. On my first few surface ventures I headed for the sun (also blue) and just kept going, hoping to avoid the aliens who seemed to have nothing better to do than blast me to bits. Eventually I discovered a space ship, now if only I can make it to the door alive… I did, after six or seven attempts, only to discover it was MY ship. I’d gone full circle, silly me.

More exploring soon revealed the Settlement Plot where the game really opens up. The complex is infested with alien beings (mostly inverted pyramids with eyeballs for heads), that require destroying. Shoot them a few times and they turn into pods which, when walked over, provide more power, armour and weapons for your suit. However, get too close to the invaders and they sap your energy at an alarming rate.
The Settlement Plot has five main levels made up of schools, labs, canteens, recreation areas, cryogenic containers, lifts, transporters and so on. Each new location provides more information on the Settlement, its alien squatters and what’s expected of you to put things right.

The Colony is a 3-D walkabout adventure (in a similar vein to Incentive’s Freescape games) where, using a mouse/keys combination, you explore and react with firstly your own ship, then the planet’s surface and ultimately the Settlement complex.

Viewed in first-person perspective, locations are displayed in a basic line-drawing style which may be filled in or not, depending on how fast you want screens to update. Sound FX, although good, are stored on Disk 2 and every time an event or action demands an audible accompaniment (quite often) you’re required to swap disks. However, The Colony is perfectly playable without sound and you have an option to leave it out, thus rendering disk swapping negligible.

The Colony is difficult to play initially, direction control is awkward, screen update is jerky and can slow to a crawl when a lot is happening in the game. However, perseverance and regular position saving are the secret to advancement and, once in the Settlement, there’s so much to explore, examine, use (even an Aliens-style forklift) and destroy that game idiosyncrasies become secondary to thwarting the aliens.

Zzap! Issue 62, June 1990, p.p.20-21