Deep-trout action

Aquanaut logo

GUILT-RIDDEN over all it had done to the planet in the previous centuries, humankind wised up. War was outlawed and everyone became as equal. The year of this revelation when the scales fell from the eyes? 1999.

I think this is a little optimisitic myself, the Channel Tunnel probably won't be finished by then and Wogan will still be on the telly, but I suppose anything can happen.

Everything was peace and light. The people of Earth had even begun to clean up the mess they made. Unfortunately, as Earth once again began to resemble a green and pleasant land, envious, greedy eyes were watching it. They belonged to a group of warlike alien baddies, chief of whom was a dude called Zeeke. They bombarded the Earth for a bit but were unable to break through the impenetrable force shield surrounding the planet.

Eventually they gave up and went away - all except one. Zeek was a bit of a fanatic, so if you do not mind, he bided his time.

Finally he got his chance and slipped through an anomaly in the shield. Hiding somewhere in the ocean he began sending out messages to an unknown recipient somewhere on Earth.

Fortunately for everyone, in all the peace, light, harmony and disarmament the Secretary General of the United Nations, the familiar Hardy Haigh, had maintained an elite squad of fighting men for just such an emergency. You are Ric Flair and your mission is to save the world - a task more dangerous than opening the fridge.

Zeeke's ship only becomes visible when in contact with water, so the plan is to be dropped in the ocean and attack from below. This introduced a bit more peril. The oceans are still a bit of a tip, full of toxic waste and old copies of ST User. In this almost alien environment the once friendly sharks and killer jellyfish have begun to get nasty. They are also breeding gaster. Some sort of weapon seems to be in order.

Initially you have little more than a harpoon gun, but more equipment will be dropped for you to pick up at designated points on your travels. This equipment may or may not be of any use to you since your enemy is an unknown quantity. All that is known is that the aliens are believed to be able to reproduce WW2 mines and depth charges, so watch out.

Most of the game takes the form of a sideways scrolling alien blaster. In this respect it does not excel. The scrolling is jerky and although the backgrounds are varied, there just is not that much to do at the beginning except stay out of the way.

Time limits between the drop points, hwere you must collect further supplies of oxygen, are too tight to allow much involved baddie bashing, though there is enough time in certain spots for experimenting with the equipment you may have picked up.

Graphics are not incredibly impressive, but some of the animation sequences, notably those of the diver as he enters the water and when he changes direction, are very well done, giving a real illusion of depth to the screen.

By far the best feature of the game is the sound. A palpable sense of atmosphere is created. The effects of bubbles rising through the depths is a nice touch.

Overall, although Aquanaut is not dangerously persuasive, there is a lot to it and it should survive at least until you have saved up enough to buy another title.

Aquanaut logo

Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen im Jahre 1999: Kriege sind abgeschafft, alle Nationen haben sich zu einer großen Union zusammengeschlossen, und zum Zeichen des Neubeginns wurde das Jahr 2000 in das Jahr 1 der neuen Zeitrechnung unbenannt...

Der himmlische Frieden wird nur durch ein paar böse Aliens namens "Ramanishi" gestört, die frech die Erde angriffen haben. Zwar verfügt unser blauer Planet mittlerweile über einen undurchdringlichen Schutzschirm, aber der ist leider kurzfristig ausgefallen!

Der allerböseste Ober-Alien Zeekee ist durch diese Lücke geschlüpft und hält sich jetzt im Meer verborgen.

Und so darf sich der Spieler durch drei aufeinander folgende Unterwasser-Sektionen von rechts nach links ballern, immer dem Schurken Zeekee hinterher. Dabei machen ihm allerlei Haie, Schwertfische und Quallen das Leben schwer, gelegentlich wird ein Gegenstand eingesammelt, oder an einem Tank der Luftvorrat aufgefrischt.

Hin und wieder kommt auch eine Meerjungfrau vorbei, leider rückt sie nicht mehr als ein keusches Küßchen heraus...

Aquanaut ist ein mittelmäßiges Actionspiel mit einigen netten Ideen, die allerdings nichts besonders überzeugend umgesetzt wurden.

Es gibt viel Grafik, sie ist nur zu grob und ruckelig. Beim Sound sind einige hübsche Effekte zu vermerken, die Musik ist allenfalls mittelprächtig.

Aus der Spielidee wäre wesentlich mehr zu machen gewesen, aber in dieser Form ist es wenigstens verzeihlich, daß die ST-User sich schon Monate vor uns mit Aquanaut langweilen durften... (mm)

Aquanaut logo

Prism Leisure
Price: £29.99

There is gold to be made from madcap ideas and Michael Sutin from Fissionchip Software has a history of doing precisely that - from co-inventing a popular, stuffed toy called Gonk to patenting a mechanical aid to meditation some fifteen years before the advent of today's synchro-energisers. Nowadays, though, his business lies in games - and making his crust by producing playful and imaginative software, such as The Kristal.

Like its predecessor Aquanaut has a distinctive pulp science fiction feel to it. This time round the hero of the piece is a scuba diving secret agent called Ric Flair, who is sent on a mission to thrwart renegade Ramanishi, monsters from another world who are living at the bottom of a globally warmed ocean.

To be sure, much of the game is little more than a sixth form wheeze - even so, it is three notches up from your average home computer hokum, and a great deal of it is fun, such as the way the chief nasty is given a name, a name which sounds like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout (or is it Kiki the frog from Hector's House?).

Aquanaut is a three-section, four-way vertical and horizontal scroller which progresses from a pure shoot em up to a puzzle game in the second and third sections.

The first part sets you against mutant sharks, men-of-war jellyfish and swordfish while you replenish your breathable gas supplies and kit yourself out for battle. The sharks in particular are beautifully animated as they circle you. They are slow moving enough to pick off easily from a distance, but get too close to a school and you have precious little room in which to manoeuvre.

Find your way to the end of this level, blow up the Ramanishi ship, and the sea bed will open up sucking you via an immensely pretty whirlpool into an underwater labyrinth. Oh, and do not forget to kiss the mermaid...

Be warned, getting to the exit in this winding, twisting second section is certainly no doddle. Each object or nasty has to be dealt with separately. My favourite are the vampiric oxygen suckers who you combat with garlic gas.

Once you are in the final section you can dispense with the need for oxygen. You fight your way Robocop-style through Atlantis, but the aim is pretty standard stuff: release four hostages and find the four pieces of the key which will open the door to Zeebee's bunker.

I had the most problems with this section. Whereas the adventure-style mode of The Kristal perfectly managed inventive touches, strip away the gags in Aquanaut and you are left with the sort of shoot em up that has been far better done by others. I wish, too, that there were some linguistic clues as to the use of the objects. I mean, how the hell are you supposed to know what to do with a Noshi Cube? Still, that is the sort of criticism I would level at many of the D&D-style games, and no doubt to many that is a minor point.

On the plus side, there is more than enough in the way of idiosyncracy - bizarre-looking sprites and unusual puzzles - for many hours of satisfying gameplay. The game looks lovely too. The only thing which lets it down is its rather mundane soundtrack. A good Buck Rodgers-style in-game tune would have helped things considerably.

Fissionchip's next outing, which has the working title of Carruthers, will be more like The Kristal in terms of gameplay; but for their first foray into pure arcade action chief fryer Sutin and his accompanied band of programmers and artists really have made a very good stab.