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Microstyle, Amiga 24.99

Simulcra An unspecified time into the future. Man has curbed his bloodthirsty instincts and scrapped all weapons. However, international disagreements still occur so to minimise death and destruction, conflicts are decided with huge simulators. Highly skilled pilots fight it out over computer-generated battlescapes.

But something's gone wrong. A virus has infected Simulcra, the battlescape supercomputer, and given it a power-hungry mind of its own. It is tapping into its rich power reserves and projected some of its battle vehicles Simulcraft into the real world. With no weapons to defend themselves against the craft, the humans are helpless and can only run for cover.

You are at the control of an SRV (Surface Reconnaissance Vehicle), a sleek tank-like craft with extendable wings to enable limited flight. The SRV is the main hope for civilisation: you must attempt to cut off all power lines to Simulcra by destroying its energy projectors.

The rotating projectors are spread throughout the 30 battle matrices, defended by various types of gun emplacements, robots, tanks and jets. The SRV itself is shown from behind and slightly above, the platforms which form the pathways of the current battle matrix stretching panoramically ahead of it.

You can drive the SRV as speedily backwards as forwards, the platforms rotating around the vehicle, Rotox-style. The same is true when you switch to flight mode, although the SRV moves faster and isn't restricted to the platforms. Your exact position in the matrix and the direction you're facing can be checked by calling up a map. Red platforms form impassable energy barriers deactivated by destroying the energy projector that powers it when all have been destroyed, the matrix is disabled.

The standard SRV is armed with cannons, which mean projectors and most vehicles, require a number of hits, but they leave behind pods when destroyed. Some pods give points but others provide extras including radar, missiles, a missile targeting system, and extra energy.

Zzap, Issue 66, October 1990, p.76

Stuart Wynne Simulcra has apparently been in development since before Zarch (Original Atari ST version of Virus), although the game itself is not really that complex. It's a fun shoot-'em-up, lifted above average by attention to detail in both gameplay and graphics. The wide variety of weapons, the different attack patterns of the aircraft, gun turrets and ground vehicles mean there is never time to pause. The graphics are beautifully detailed, with a real Tron feel especially in the 'n'-shaped Recognizers, Solar Sail and MCP-like generators. There is plenty of original stuff too, such as various superb aircraft (including helicopters) which make diving attack runs. It is all very fast, something you appreciate when you have take off and are zooming over the attractive landscape. Heartily recommended for blast-'em-up fans.

Wozza With such a derivative plot and apparently tired game design, I was not looking forward to Simulcra. But slap my wrists and eat my words, Graftgold's latest 16-bit creation is one of the most immediately playable future combat games ever. The SRV is a speedy and highly manoeuvrable craft, its reverse gear (as fast as forwards) great for getting out of dead ends or dangerous situations. In flight, there is a sense of organised chaos in steering, a bit worrying but all part of the fun of the craft. It moves in smooth, fast 3-D, the matrices spinning about you, platforms coming into view and various adversaries moving on or flying above them. Although some of these opponents are derivative of Tron designs, they integrate well with the game to produce a believable computer simulation of a combat zone. Although gameplay is basically shoot- 'em-up, there is plenty of exploration involved (frequent references to the map are almost essential), and the search for those elusive projectors and the best places to go for a quick flight mean brain power is needed too.

Impressive Simulcraft creation screen, codeword system, matrix maps and clear dashboard display.
Fairly smooth, fast moving filled 3-D landscapes, with atmospheric use of shading. Vehicles are detailed but pixel shading is a little crude.
Functional but simple, almost 8-bit effects, pleasant title music.
The SRV's immediately easy and fun to use and the game concept is easily grasped.
30 levels of varying layout and increasing size plus a widening array of assailants as you progress.
A playable, easily grasped 'accurate' simulation of a computer combat simulator!