Defenders of the Earth logo

ENIGMA VARIATIONS £19.99 * Joystick

If you're the kind of person that never sees Saturday mornings, never mind Saturday morning television, then you may not have caught the 'all-new' Flash Gordon adventures in the form of Defenders of the Earth. It's the usual American cartoon tat, with 'classic' heroes teaming up with a bunch of right-on youngsters amid a hail of spaceships and laserblasts, as the evil villain attempts to take over the world.

In Enigma Variations' new computer implementation of the cartoon you play Flash himself, romping through Ming the Merciless fortress fighting off his minions until the evil ruler is tracked down in the Throne Room.

Flash starts out armed with four shield-packs and an automatic weapon. Hits from guards and other defence systems reduce Flash's shield strength, but extra energy packs can be picked up along the way to top up the diminishing supply. Also scattered around the fortress are extra weapons, such as laser blasters and high-speed magazines.

At various points, Flash may came across an obstacle such as a gap in the floor, a locked door or an electric field. By activating a call signal, Flash can ask one of the other Defenders to help him pass the obstacle - for example, Mandrake can magically create bridges, the Phantom can kick doors and Lothar can break locks.

If all Flash's energy packs run out, Dynak-X transports him back to safety all ready to go back and fight another time.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The intro music to Defenders of the Earth has been faithfully converted to the Amiga: in other words, the game's there is the usual tacky Saturday matinee 'anthem' that kids can sing as they leap around re-enacting their favourite characters' antics.

The graphics have a colourful cartoon-like appearance, but the animation on all characters is simplistic to say the least. This is one of the most important things to consider when converting a cartoon to computer, but Enigma Variations' design unfortunately doesn't quite capture the feel of an action cartoon.

LASTING INTEREST

The gameplay is fairly basic, and each level is pretty similar to the last with the exception of a few more robots and guards to encounter. To add to this, the going is frustratingly difficult, which will have even dedicated shoot-em-up fans turning the air blue with profanities and threatening dangerous (and probably illegal) action against the computer before throwing the joystick down and leaving the room.

JUDGEMENT

It's rather poetic that such a run-of-the-mill cartoon has been turned into a run-of-the-mill shoot-em-up. The graphics and sound do the job, but the gameplay, unfortunately, is lacking in originality, excitement and variety - all things that a shoot-em-up needs to be impressive in the Nineties.

It's fun for a couple of games, but frustration sets in soon after, discouraging budding Defenders from struggling through, no matter how big a threat Ming is to the universe.



Defenders of the Earth logo

Kennt Ihr Flash Gordon oder das Phantom? Nein?? Fragt einfach Papi nach den Comic-Heroen seiner Jugend. Ein noch völlig unbekannter Hersteller hat sich jetzt die Lizenz für diese Uralt-Helden besorgt und die edlen Streiter für Recht, Ordnung und Vanilleeis versoftet...

Der böse Ming hat die Kinder der Defenders entführt, damit sich diese nicht in seine üblen Vorhaben einmischen (Weltherrschaft an sich reißen und so). Aber was ein echter Held ist, der läßt sich sowas natürlich nicht bieten! Also dringt die versammelte Mannschaft unter Flashs Leitung in Mings Festung ein.

Während die Gegner (überwiegend Wachen, daneben Fluggetier und Riesenmonster) sich von allen Seiten auf ihn stürzen, ballert er sich tapfer durch Mings Spukschlößchen. Unterstützt wird er dabei von Lothar, dem Phantom, dem netten Zauber-Opi Mandrake und dem gar nicht mal so nutzlosen Maskottchen Zuffy.

Die Grafik ist recht gut geraten, mit schickem Parallax-Scrolling, das überhaupt nicht ruckelt - lediglich die Figuren könnten besser animiert sein. Besonders abwechslungsreich ist die Pixel-Landschaft allerdings nicht. Der Sound besteht aus einer guten Musik und knackigen FX mit Sprachausgabe.

Trotzdem ist das technisch schon fast als brillant zu bezeichnende Spiel auf die Dauer ein ziemlicher Nervtöter: Man tut praktisch nichts anderes, als vor sich hinballernd durch die Schloßgänge zu laufen, die einzige Abwechslung bringt der Hilfs-Defender, den man in kritischen Situationen per Space-Taxi aktivieren kann.

Da das Game außerdem über zahlreiche unfaire Stellen verfügt, und somit die vier Leben nicht sehr lange währen, reicht es nur für "ferner liefen". (mm)



Defenders of the Earth logo

Enigma Variations, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

Washed up old superheroes never die, or age, they merely get a dramatic new cozzie. The Defenders team is a kind of retirement home for superheroes so obscure and ancient that most people have forgotten about them. I mean apart from team leader Flash Gordon, who's ever heard of Lothar (the strongest man in the world), the Phantom (second strongest man in the world) and Mandrake the Magician (Paul Daniels with a better rug). If you ask me, the only one with star presence is Zuffy the mascot!

On the other hand Ming The Merciless is famous, but only because his vases are so valuable. Still, when he's not down at the pottery he's got quite a nifty line in evil deeds. His latest escapade is to kidnap the children of the Defenders. Shock! Horror! Did anyone even know any of this weird bunch had girlfriends? In any case, considering their age, you'd expect the children to be old age pensioners by now!

Nevertheless, the team is more than a little perturbed by this and plan a rescue. This is what Ming has specifically warned them not to do, otherwise he'll kill the crinkly children. But what the heck, they're superheroes.

Flash is promptly teleported into Ming's fortress, armed only with a pistol. The fortress is a horizontally scrolling maze viewed side-on, with flickscreen scrolling on the C64. Flash must find Ming's throne room to save the children. On the way Flash has to kill loads of baddies. On the Amiga special superbaddies - one like ED 209 - are summoned if Flash crosses a field generator.

Fortunately Flash can call on the other defenders to teleport in and open locked doors, cross chasms and deactivate the intruder alert. They carry out their tasks automatically, but if hit will drain Flash's energy.


Robin Hogg At least the C64 game looks good backdrop-wise with detail and colour even if there's a lot of repetition. Flash is the best sprite, but that's not saying much. I wish I knew why Enigma Variations (who previously did Gilbert the Alien) made the game so hard. After countless deaths I managed to beat a massive spider thing (one of the better graphics), ran through a further half dozen screens and there was STILL no sign of a desperately needed energy pod. Frustratingly tough and very limited in ideas.
Amiga gamesplayers have a lot more time to take out the bad guys thanks to a slightly larger play area accompanied by smooth parallax scrolling. This doesn't make up for the fact that the ideas behind Defenders are VERY firmly 8-bit ones.
Scorelord Running around a maze, leaping chasms and shooting thousands of heavily armed villains is a dated idea overused by unimaginative budget games. The C64 game has some nice backgrounds, but the sprites are unremarkable. So there's little to keep you coming back for more repetitive punishment.
The Amiga game is better due to more attractive graphics and a slightly slower pace. Also there's some large and impressive monsters. Actual gameplay is still too repetitive and difficult, but at least it doesn't look so much like a budget title.