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Pioneer plague logo

Mandarin, £24.95 disk
Pioneer plague A s the population of your home planet grew, so did a very significant problem. No one had any room to live. The solution that the scientists came up with seemed brilliant; a probe that would fly out to seemingly habitable worlds, build an environment that was suitable for population and then reproduce itself and fly off in search of more planets. However, something went wrong...

After hundreds of years of faultless service, the scanners monitoring the Pioneer Probes had mutated. By this time, it was too late to do anything, as another even worse strain had developed, which landed on already inhabited worlds and built the cities anyway, using the population as raw fuel to power them.

You, a particularly hard kind of hero, must fly off to the planets that have been detected as having this strain present and attempt to stop the probes from launching to other planets and approaching your home system. You control your mothership (the LifeStar) by flying it through ‘Wormholes’ between planets, navigating a strange dimension known as the ‘Sub-Euclidian Plane’. When orbiting a planet you then transfer to an Air-Ship, which is used to destroy the Skyhatches that launch mutated and pretty nasty Probes towards other systems.
As you fly around, rough ‘n’ tough automatic defence systems launch enemy craft at you, trying to stop you from succeeding.

While you try and halt the plague, a group of daring colonists launch from your homeworld, their story being relayed to you as you progress through your mission. Right, you’ve read the info – get on with it!

Zzap, Issue 46, February 1989, p.p.76-77

Maff Evans The main feature that Pioneer Plague boasted in all the press was its HAM graphics, allowing 4096 colours on screen. However, this isn’t the first thing that struck me about the game. What I noticed was the powerhouse intro music, with orchestra strikes galore. Even so, the HAM title page that followed was still very impressive! My first plays were rather a daunting experience, but once I had the navigation sussed I thoroughly enjoyed zooming about blasting the Skyhatches to bits. The action in the shoot ‘em up sections is incredibly frenetic, leaving you feeling quite drained after a long battle. Blasting fans should enjoy Pioneer Plague as it’s much more than a few pretty pictures.

Gordon Houghton After seeing how the HAM mode operates in the Photon Paint art utility, it shows how difficult it is at times to get a satisfying picture using this mode. Often strange colour fringes appear where you least expect them, making drawing a HAM picture a very long process. The HAM pictures used in Pioneer Plague on the other hand are very good. There is still a sign of the weird ‘ghosting’ effect, but you hardly notice this. The game itself is very playable, requiring methodical thought and fast responses to survive. The city scrolling in the blasting sections is a little odd, but you soon get used to it, particularly with all the other stuff going on (by the way the computer warnings sound brilliant – just alien enough to be effective). Good game, good graphics, good sound – what else do you want? Well, a £19.99 price tag would help...

Lots of depth and a glossy overall appearance, with an unfolding picture story, wormhole maps and more.
Wonderful still screens and colourful, well animated ships using the HAM mode very well.
Great music, crashing effects and strange but intriguing speech.
A bit weird to begin with...
But once you get used to it you’ll be playing for ages.
Not just a decent HAM demo, there’s also an interesting game in there!