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Universe logo

B Universe efore I start telling you about this one, let me make a couple of things clear. First of all, I really love point and click adventures (even after all this time, I still think that Monkey Island 2 is the best Amiga game ever). Second, I always start out a game review thinking that everything has the potential to be good, with bad points dropping marks as we go on and good points recapturing lost percentages. Now with those two factors in mind I should like Universe - but id don’t.

The game is a point-and-click adventure set around Boris (the hero) trying to make his way home to Earth from a surreal futuristic galaxy. Right from the first screen you can tell that the scenery is going to be wonderful, with some beautifully-drawn backdrops displaying the scenes. The music is fantastic too, ranging from dreamy soundscapes to powerful chase tracks.

All looking good so far – this one could still be a winner. Well no we find the problems…
First of all, you cannot install the five-disk adventure to the hard drive and you should be able to do that with any adventure worth its salt. This is made worse because it does not even recognise a second drive. Plenty of disk swaps are in store!
I have already mentioned the smart backdrops, but the sprites and animations are very ropy. Boris quite often wobbles about unconvincingly and things glitch horribly at times – not because of the programming – although this often shows holes, objects disappearing and stuff – but just because the animation has not been drawn properly.
The next problem rears its ugly head when you start to play. You see Boris does not respond too well to the most basic of controls – walking. Click where you want him to go and he will more often than not walk straight into an obstacle and just stop. Great.

Universe The first puzzle involves a timed jump (I kid you not) on to an asteroid then a walkway. That is bad enough, but the next puzzle is worse. You want to access a control panel, so you (get this) insert a metal bar into the panel. Whaaat!??! Later on you need to access a panel to open a door – or so I thought. It subsequently turns out that you have to attack the panel with the metal bar. Oh yes. It is so obvious, isn’t it.
This is typical of many of the problems in controlling the game. The reason being that there is a three-tiered control panel. Pressing the right mouse button calls up seven general commands which lead into eight additional options and finally the inventory. Included in this lot are 10 controls just for using items.
Nine of these can go for a start – you only need a Use command. Surely by now programmers should have sussed this out. Having to use the command Combine shows how convoluted the whole things is.

A short way into the game and another taboo crops up – an arcade sequence. Sorry, no. An adventure game should be designed around lateral thinking solutions to clever problems, not simply resorting to a fly-along-and-shoot section when things get boring. And they do. Oh they do.

Weighting everything up, the balance tips in favour of the down sides. There are a few uppers, such as lovely backgrounds, occasional superb character graphics and brilliant music, but a thin plot, poor puzzles and an appalling control system are just the tip of the ‘setback iceberg’ that dogs Universe’s every playing moment.
Maff Evans

Amiga Format, Issue 63, September 1994, p.69

UNIVERSE
PROGRAMMERS
In house
PUBLISHER
Core Design 0332 297797
PRICE
£34.99
RELEASED
Out now

 

GRAPHICS
07 out of 10
The gorgeous backdrops are let down by some scrappy sprites and animation.

SOUND
09 out of 10
Very few spot effects, but loads of fantastic, atmospheric, soundtrack music.

ADDICTION
03 out of 10
Even when you have sussed out the convoluted controls, it is all too frustrating.

PLAYABILITY
04out of 10
Irritating in the extreme, even when you know what all the commands do.

VERDICT
"Nice music and scenery cannot cover up the fact that this is an extremely weak adventure game. It is just not worthy of sharing space with classics like Monkey Island."
38%


Universe logo

Futuristen aufgemerkt: Das märchenhafte „Curse of Enchantia“ war im Grunde nur toll verpackte Durchschnittskost, doch beim kosmischen nachfolgeabenteuer hat Core Design jetzt noch mal kräftig draufgesattelt!

Universe Im Intro verklickert uns ein (im Unterschied zum Rest des Games leider englischer Text die von wenigen Bildchen aufgelockerte Vorgeschichte: Während er bei seinem Onkel zu Besuch ist, fingert Boris Verne an der neuen Erfindung dieses exzentrischen Wissenschaftlers herum und findet sich uversehends in einem Paralleluniversum wieder. Auf einen kurzen Sturzflug durchs All folgt der Aufschlag auf einem kargen Planetoiden – dank der geringen Schwerkraft dort ist er nicht ganz so hart wie der seines Namensvetters auf dem Tennisplatz. Ab jetzt greift der Spieler dem Helden hilfreich unter die Arme, schließlich will der Ärmste schleunigst zurück in heimische Gefilde. Ehe er aber nicht den grausamen Unterdrückter Nelamises kräftig in die Suppe gespuckt hat, dürfte sich das kaum bewerkstelligen lassen...

Der universelle Widerstand erweist sich sehr schnell als ein knüppelschweres Unterfangen, woran neben den hammerharten Rätselnüssen, die bisweilen auch noch unter Zeitdruck geknackt werden müssen, vor allem die etwas verkorkste Benutzeroberfläche Schuld hat. Zwar folgt unser Held dem mauszeiger nach einem Einfach- (gehen) oder Doppelklick (rennen) bis auf ein paar kleine Hänger relativ problemlos durch die unzähligen Loctions, doch sobald Aktionen auszuführen sind, wird es haarsträubend: Die über 30 Icons der Vorabfassung wurden für die Verkaufsversion zwar auf erträgliche 19 abgespeckt, aber auch zu diesen darf man sich teilweise erst mühselig über eine Leiste am unteren Bildrand durchwühlen. Nicht zuletzt das macht die Suche nach der richtigen Verknüpfung von Aktion und Handlungsobjekt ziemlich nervenaufreibend, denn wer kommt schon darafu, daß man zum Öffnen einer elektronisch verriegelten Tür den Befehl „Angreifen Tastatur mit gebogene Metallstange“ zusammenklicken muß?

Auch findet man nur durch umständliches Rumprobieren heraus, daß zum Entfernen einer Abdeckung besagte Stange nicht benutzt, sondern darin eingesetzt werden will. Doch nun genug der Kritik, denn die gegenüber dem Vorgänger um Klassen bessere Präsentation sorgt dafür, daß der von der umständlichen Steuerung strapazierte Geduldsfaden trotzdem nicht so schnell reißt.

Universe Hier wäre zunächst einmal die phantastische, in Pasteltönen gehaltene Grafik zu nennen, die ständig Appetit auf mehr macht. Dank des sogenannten S.P.A.C.-Systems zaubert sogar der A500 satte 256 Farben auf den Bildschirm – wer es nicht mit eigenen Augen gesehen hat, glaubt es einfach nicht! Beeindruckend sind auch die vielen Zwischensequenzen, welche der Story zudem eine dichte Atmosphäre verleihen. Daß dabei die Bewegungsabläufe des Heldensprites so realistisch aussehen, kommt nicht von ungefähr: sie wurden im „Rotoscoping-Verfahren“ mit einem richtigen Schauspieler erstellt. Außerdem gewinnen die Szenarien durch den gelungenen Zoomeffekt, den man dem Heldensprite spendiert hat, an Tiefe. Für eine willkommene Abwechslung zu den knifflifen Knobeleien und damit für zusätzliche Motivationsschübe sorgen ab und an kleine Actioneinlagen. Da führt man dann z.B. mit seinem PTV („Personal Transport Vehicle“) wegen der ausgefallenen Automatik eifenhändig ein Andockmanöver durch, jagt mit Jetpacks ausgestattete Straßenräuber durch die düsteren Gassen einer gigantischen Raumstation oder entspannt sich in der Spielhalle bei einer Runde „Space Invaders“.

Eine wichtige Informationsquelle sind die Multiple-choice-Schwätzchen mit den skurrilen Gestalten, denen man während seiner Reise begegnet. Und damit die Lachmuskeln ebenso trainert werden wie die graue Zellen, wurde alles mit einer gehörigen Portion Humor gewürzt; auch die Beschreibungen der Gegenstände und Orte. Beispielsweise klärt uns Boris beim betrachten der Überreste eines abgestürzten Raumschiffs darüber auf, daß es sich hier wohl um das Resultat des mutigen, aber aussichtslosen Versuchs handele, durch den Planeten hindurchzufliegen. Das Tüpfelchen auf dem i ist schließlich die musikalische Untermalung, denn die futuristischen Sphärenklänge passen immer perfekt zur Situation, weshalb sich auch das Fehlen jeglicher Sound-FX ohne weiteres verschmerzen läßt.

Apropos Schmerzen: Der Weg zum Ziel ist hier ein sehr gefahrvoller, nicht umsonst offeriert die Speicheroption 20 Spielstände pro Disk. Neben den vielen Möglichkeiten, den Löffel abzugeben, bescheren nämlich die Häscher des Tyrannen einem zu unvorsichtig oder träge Revoluzzer die Deportation in die Strafkolonie – und damit ein verfrühtes Game Over. Leider werden in diesem Parallel-Universum weder Zweitläufer noch Festplatten unterstützt; trotzdem muß man die fünf Scheiben erstaunlich selten wechseln, und auch die Ladezeiten halten sich in gut erträglichen Grenzen. Sogar die deutsche Übersetzung ist den Jungs von der Insel ausnahmsweise sehr ordentlich gelungen, die paar kleinen Fehler sind keineswegs gravierend.

Der einzig wirklich gravierende Fehler dieses fesselnden Adventures bleibt damit das unausgegorene Handling, denn der extrem hohe Schwierigkeitsgrad dürfte zumindest für hartnäckige Rätselfüchse eher von Vorteil sein; haben sie bis zum Abspann doch lange zu knabbern. Wer also genügend Erfahrung und Geduld mitbringt, entdeckt in Universe ein Universum voller grafisch hinreißend verpackter Gefahren! (st)

Amiga Joker, October 1994, p.p.14-15

UNIVERSE
(CORE DESIGN)
SF - ADVENTURE
80%
"KNACKIG"
Amiga Joker
GRAFIK
ANIMATION
MUSIK
SOUND-FX
HANDHABUNG
DAUERSPAß
91%
84%
84%
-  
55%
78%
FÜR EXPERTEN
PREIS DM 99,-
SPEICHERBEDARF
DISKS/ZWEITFLOPPY
HD-INSTALLATION
SPEICHERBAR
DEUTSCH
1 MB
5/NEIN
NEIN
SPIELSTÄNDE
KOMPLETT


Universe logo

At least there can be no Universe 2 [Infinity joke].

Game: Universe
Runs on: A1200
Publisher: Core
Authors: Gary Antcliffe
Price: £35
Release: Out now

L Universe isten to this. It is a game that goes out of its way to be friendly. Controls are kept to a minimum, so you can get on with solving the puzzles without grappling with ridiculously unlikely action combinations. It is very funny. It takes your side at every turn: it recognises external drives, is hard disk-installable and you cannot die in it. Technically, it is linear, but there is plenty of ‘give’ and you do not feel like you are being bustled around in a tour group. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it is. It is The Secret Of Monkey Island. Universe, on the other hand, is completely terrible. But why is it completely terrible? Let us investigate with the aid of these helpful sub-headings. Exclusively inside. Etc.

THE GRAPHICS
Universe trounces The Secret Of Monkey Island in every way graphically. It uses angles and perspective to fabulous effect, with your bloke hacking around smashing backgrounds in finely rendered 3D without ever looking blocky or cartoony. Great shading, too, especially on the introductory asteroid bit with the planet’s atmosphere boiling away in the distance. Actually, the graphics are not at all terrible. Hurrah.

THE STORY
Adventures are stories. And the point with stories is that telling is everything. Even old jokes can be put across if neatly written and told with panache. Universe starts with a ‘funny’ manual and careen downwards from there. The game seems desperate to undo all the good things about a graphics adventure and harass you with screens of dull and badly-written text pointlessly describing what you can see perfectly well thankyouverymuch. As an example, when you try something out, the pointer changes to a thumbs up or thumbs down icon to let you know if you are on the right track – a great idea. But if you are wrong, you also get a random, standard message like ‘I don’t think that would be a good idea’ or, ‘You can’t do that’ because, obviously, you are an imbecile.
Thanks, guys.

THE PUZZLES
Universe is unbendingly linear. You will not progress to the next puzzle until you solve the present one. Solving the present one is made infinitely more of a brain-melting chore by the unfathomably complicated control method. Not only can you ‘use’ objects, you can ‘throw’, ‘push/pull’, ‘open/close’, ‘combine’, ‘wear’ and ‘insert’ them. (and, yes, I know you could open and close or push and pull things in The Secret Of Monkey Island, but those were obvious objects in the background, like doors or handles, rather than stuff in your inventory).

As an example of how stupendously awful the interface is, here is the very first puzzle. You find a satellite dish, with its controls obscured by a panel. You are carrying a couple of small rocks, a circuit board and a bent metal bar. The solution is INSERT METAL BAR IN PANEL. Not, for example, the equally likely OPEN PANEL WITH BAR, PUSH/PULL PANEL, ATTACK PANEL WITH ROCK or COMBINE BAR WITH PANEL. Nope, in the worst text adventure tradition, only the exact verb/noun combination will do the trick, rendering the whole puzzle-solving process a moronically tedious series of attempts to try all the action icons with everything in your inventory. Still not convinced? Arguing that inserting the bar as a lever is fairly obvious and logical? Right. Straight after fixing the satellite, you have to climb down an exhaust vent (because there is a mirror stuck in it that you use to deflect some lasers that kill you as soon as you try to walk through a perfectly ordinary door, that is why. Oh yes – you can die in Universe as well, so you end up saving every time you move to avoid having to start again from the beginning. Except, and you will pardon my digression, you do not die outright, but are captured and sent to a prison planet where – and this is the best bit – a text screen tells you that ‘you realise there is no escape from this penal colony’. But isn’t the whole game about overcoming ridiculous odds to overthrow an evil galactic empire? Consistent game logic, eh? I love it) which you manage to do not by opening the vent, or clicking on it, or ‘inserting’ yourself or any one of a dozen other stupid but plausible things, but by ‘push/pulling’ your way down. It is, of course, about now that you realise how the action icons can apply to just about anything. Except ‘wear’ of course. That is a unique verb. Phew. (Apart from the time you have to put on a jacket by ‘combining’ it with a console because it has got a wrist computer or something. Sob).

THE ACTION BITS
But it is not puzzle-solving. Now and then there is a bit requiring you to use the point-and-click interface in real time action sequences. Gasp, eh? Does not work of course. In the first scene (look, I know I keep banging on about the first bit of the game, but it took me 45 minutes to complete the initial puzzle, and that was with Cam’s help, mainly because unless you click exactly on the side of the screen you go around the planetoid and get utterly lost) you have to jump on a moving asteroid, but have to aim ahead to allow for the time it takes your bloke to make the leap. Miss and you hurtle off to another bit of the asteroid and get lost again. Later on in the game, you get chased by security robots and have to open a door before they catch you (by attacking it with the bar, of course). Much later (we are professionals here, no matter how much it hurts) you have to dock with a spaceship in a life-and-death struggle with manual landing claws and inertia. Sob.

THE REST
You cannot skip the introduction, the sound is awful, with an infinitely bar of music that sort of gets dramatically louder and then sort of gets dramatically quieter and then sort of gets dramatically louder and then sort of gets dramatically quieter and then sort of gets dramatically louder until you mock up a letterhead and fax Core purporting to be from a small music company about to branch out intro computer music CD compilations, asking for their musician’s home address so you can get him to write some sleeve notes and then going round and shooting his family, and it does not recognise a second or hard drive despite coming on six disks.
The Secret Of Monkey Island is three years old, you know.
JONATHAN NASH

Amiga Power, Issue 41, September 1994, p.p.45-46



"A moronically tedious series of events"


Upper UPPERS A1200 Truly lovely graphics, with an exciting use of forced angles and 3D space. Great name.
Downer DOWNERS These people really have no idea what makes a good point-and-click adventure. Friendly controls, good scripting, leeway with the plot and satisfying puzzles are just some of the things that have vanished without trace. And you can die, too.

THE BOTTOM LINE
It is the sort of game where you can feel the programmers looking over your shoulder, exchanging uproarious laughter when you get stuck or die, without ever realising exactly what you have done. Detestably unplayable.
21

P E R C E N T



Universe logo  CU Amiga Screen Star

Life on Earth is one big adventure for Alan Dykes so he seemed like the right person to explore a whole Universe.

Universe My mother will disown me when she finds out: Core Design's Universe has made a thief and a liar out of me and, worst of all, I'm proud of it. Of course adventure games have always encouraged this sort of thing, right from the very beginning of time when text quests told you "… you are on a dusty plain, there is nothing to see", so you wandered off north, east etc, and it still told you "… you are on a dusty plain, there is nothing to see". Finally, fingers worn to the bone, and having knackered your N, S, E ,W, keys, lo and behold, you "… are on a dusty plain, it is night-time, there is a troll sleeping by a camp fire in front of you". And what did you do? You examined him, found out he had a sword and some money and then, without so much as a by-your-leave, you stole them. What sort of example is this for the people, young and old, of this country?

Anyway, Mary Whitehouse mode over, it's time to return to the present day and Universe, which in fact is anything but an old fashioned text adventure, with beautiful 256 colour graphics, hand painted backdrops and detailed sprites – even on an A500. The basic scenario is bog standard, involving a youthful adventurer, space, decaying worlds and strange aliens, but it's only while the game is unfolding that you discover what your real mission is and (without giving too much away) you end up tackling some of the most powerful figures in the universe.

You start off controlling an earthling named Boris Verne (16, of Ashby-de-la-Zouch) who has been transported into a parallel universe after messing around with an electronic pod in his uncle's back yard. Well, the young scallywag should have known better. As the game begins you find Boris on a little asteroid in the middle of a much bigger asteroid field, with the primary objective of getting back home again before his mum misses him. And this is where the point-and-click system comes in.

LE MENU
Universe There are very few adventures that have managed to really simplify the menu system to an ideal level. Game designers seem to have a morbid fear of placing too many tasks under a single heading, something to do with 'making things too easy', but if the game and storyline are in themselves complex and good enough then surely simplifying the controls could only add to the enjoyment. Universe's hidden menu becomes available by clicking on the right mouse button, while selections are made by clicking on the left button.

There are seven main icons, the following six of which control direct, self explanatory actions: Pick Up, Use, Look, Speak, Attack and Check Inventory. The seventh is an Options icon which contains another eight cleverly hidden action buttons and a question mark on the far right., beneath which lies the save/load game function, some copyright information and an Info requester that merely seems to repeat the introductory message from whatever section of the game you are in.

The eight icons under the Options menu are: Insert, Push/Pull, Eat, Wear, Throw, Combine Objects, Open Objects and Jump. Of these, Jump, should in my opinion have been included in the initial menu because you end up using it quite a lot. The other frustrating problem i Had concerned the distinction between Use (in the initial menu) and Insert (in the options menu).
Having a bank account and cash machine card, like most people in this country, I am used to 'inserting' it into machines to get money out. In Universe you can opt to Insert, for instance, an ID card into something, which would seem logical (and suits the description of Insert in the manual), only to find that it doesn't work! In fact you have to Use the card with the machine. One of the few instances where Insert was any use was in prising off a panel with a… well, that would be giving too much away. My point is that they may as well have combined these two icons. It wouldn't have made Universe much easier, just less frustrating. Overall though, using Universe's menu is as easy as pie and almost as tasty.

In Universe, like other games in the genre, the mouse cursor is shaped like a hand with a pointing forefinger, however, when you select an Option, like Jump, this changes to a little jumping man with a pointer and so on. If you do something right the cursor changes to a 'thumbs up' sign, if you are not allowed to do something you will get a 'thumbs down' sign. This range of hand signals was very useful and, admittedly, could have been taken a lot further by a cheekier programmer.

Universe INTERACTION
There are plenty of characters, good and bad, helpful and unhelpful to interact with. Boris will tell you whether you can or cannot speak to someone, and along the way you may find that some of the aliens looks suspiciously familiar, especially the very helpful hermit-in-the-hut on the planet Jor-Slev 4. And just in case you don't get the joke Boris will jog your memory with statements like , "hey, haven't I seen you somewhere before?" (in Star Wars, etc).

As usual, proper interaction with characters will obtain valuable information and objects to help you further your quest. Quite a lot of the time Boris speaks to aliens with predetermined statements and replies, although you are also given multiple choice answers. The multiple choice answers aren't terribly funny though, and so, being a sort of chap I went for the most sensible answer each time. However, if you are well known to a frivolous japester make sure to save regularly; there is one particularly hairy moment towards the beginning of the game where a smart remark will get you blown out of space.

One the subject of saving, if you read only one page of Universe's manual let it be the one entitled 'Loading And Saving Your Game'. There are several sequences in Universe that suddenly become very desperate, with the risk of certain death or capture by the imperial forces imminent, and, at that moment you find that the save option is either of no use or unavailable. Top tip: regular trips to the save disk will relieve you a lot of head and heartache.

Once you have picked up an object, or traded for something, it gets placed in Boris' cavernous inventory. If you are the sort of person who sends their character all over the shop picking up everything in sight it's worth mentioning that Boris can't put anything down unless he uses it. Thus, like your mum's handbag, the inventory will quickly fill up with rubbish. God, I was carrying so much useless junk around towards the end of the game. You can combine objects in the inventory (using an icon in the Options menu) to create added functionality, though this doesn't happen very often.

Universe SPRITELY?
Up close the main sprite is detailed and its movements have, Core assure me, been 'rotoscoped', a process whereby a real person is filmed moving and then digitised. This involves over 500 frames of animation and really adds to the atmosphere of the game, as does the felling of perspective, where Boris and other sprites disappear not the distance until, in some sequences, they become but a pinprick of light on the screen.

Controlling the lad is simplicity itself, point in the direction you want him to go, press the left mouse-button, and he follows your guidance. Double click the same button and he runs there. This movement is smooth on the horizontal plane, but there are a few instances when running diagonally where Boris starts break-dancing and jerking around like a maniac, he also goes through the odd wall or solid object, but overall the quality is still excellent.

As mentioned earlier in this review the painted backdrops, many with added animations, are gorgeous. There are always ships or hovercraft flying by in the background and Wheelworld, a space station you'll encounter sooner or later, really does rotate for gravity's sake, making Boris feel "quite dizzy" whenever he looks up at the stars. Core have also created a musical score to match the graphical extravaganza. With intros, separate atmospheric tunes for each area and chase music this is yet another game best appreciated through a decent set of amplified stereo speakers. It's al a bit of 'Chariots Of Fire' inspired but I left it on (quite loud too) through most of the game, much to the annoyance of everyone else.

SAD END
When all was said and done I was both delighted and sorry to finish Universe. Delighted because I had triumphed, sorry because I didn't really want it to end. The story twists and turns quite tantalisingly, and there is always something new on the horizon. That's not to say that I didn't have any problems along the way. Universe is not a terribly difficult adventure, but there are a few spots that will have you thinking for a while. There are also some occasions where the interface demands more precise commands than you're used to giving and it's only after you've tried several options, or the same one over and over again, that you get things right. But these frustrations are infrequent.

Experienced adventurers will enjoy Universe's plot and planning but ultimately won't find it much of a challenge to finish. Newcomers to the adventure fold may find the initial lack of plot and direction demotivating (remember, the full story unfolds as the game goes on) but it's still a good introduction, not least because of the quality of the sound and graphics and the addition of arcade sequences. It may not quite as visually stunning as Beneath A Steel Sky, but it is a stonkingly good space/futureworld adventure. I would buy it.

CU Amiga, September 1994, p.p. 64-66

ARCADE ACTION?
By their very nature Adventure games are not well known for their Arcade action. However, Universe successfully incorporates some in order to spice up the gameplay, and it works surprisingly well. All of this arcade-style action takes place while controlling a personal transport vehicle or PTV – essentially a mini spaceship/hover car. Control is by mouse and in one section of the game you get to fire missiles at the enemy by pressing both mouse buttons simultaneously. Each arcade sequence is short but good fun and moderately difficult, so be sure to save before you start.

CORE DESIGN £34.99
A500
A1500
A500+
A2000
A600
A3000
A1200
A4000
CORE DESIGN, TRADEWINDS HOUSE, 69/71 ASHBOURNE ROAD, DERBY, DE22 3FS. TEL: 0332 297797
 
RELEASE DATE:
GENRE:
TEAM:
CONTROLS:
NUMBER OF DISKS:
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:
HARD DISK INSTALLABLE:
MEMORY:
 
OUT NOW
ADVENTURE
IN HOUSE
MOUSE
6
1
NO
1Mb

 
GRAPHICS
SOUND
LASTABILITY
PLAYABILITY
90%
92%
89%
85%
A very involving and worthwhile adventure.
OVERALL: 87%